MADISON - Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan never got to meet Hall of Famer Walter ‘Doc’ Meanwell but he’ll get a chance to equal him on Tuesday night.
When No.11 Wisconsin plays its second of four games in the Chicago Invitational Challenge against UMKC at the Kohl Center, a victory over the Kangaroos (1-3) would give Ryan his 246 career win at Wisconsin, tying Meanwell for second on UW’s all-time list.
Ryan has brushed off past coaching milestones in the past (500 career wins vs. Auburn, 200 wins at UW vs. Marquette), but has such an infinity for Meanwell because of what he meant to the game of basketball.
“He’s a precision guy,” Ryan said Monday. “Besides winning championships, people should be known in coaching for things other than how many banners that are hanging. When I said precision, he had the dribble taken out of the game because he thought basketball should be pass and cut, pass and cut.”
Meanwell taught a style of play that featured short passing, few dribbles and a tight zone defense, a system that might sound familiar with today’s Wisconsin fan due to Ryan following those same principles.
“Doc Meanwell was one of those guys who really had his players making the proper cuts, proper reads,” Ryan said. “He was way ahead of his time. It was the early Princeton offense … To be listed with Doc Meanwell with anything is quite an honor.”
The England native coached two different stints at Wisconsin, going 92-9 from 1911-17 and 154-90 from 1920-34, and won four Big Ten titles, won three Helms Foundation National Championships during his 20 seasons for the Badgers and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame posthumously in 1959.
In addition to Meanwell being on the cutting edge physically, Ryan has a book co-authored by Meanwell that talks about taking care of an athlete’s body, feet and staleness, more teaching points he borrowed from the Hall of Famer.
“Basketball is a long season,” Ryan said. “You are going against the same guys in practice every day. Philosophically, he did some things to take away some of that staleness, kind of the blahs so to speak.”
Ryan used the line ‘Having a Case of the Mondays’ from the popular movie Office Space as a reference point, and a reason Ryan uses his sometimes unleashes his dry sense of humor for his team.
“With an athlete’s studies and the amount of work they had to put in (that) they get stale,” Ryan said. “Once in awhile, I’ll tell them a joke, I don’t dance for them anymore. There are some things we did during the year to break things up.”
A Better Berggren
Wisconsin has yet to face a team with Big Ten post size and presence, but the challenges junior Jared Berggren faced against Wofford’s post players was an array of drop steps, counter moves, different screening action and play quicker than the improving center can move.
Berggren responded to the challenge by showing better footwork in the post, better positioning in his lower body and more awareness of his surroundings. As a result, Berggren has limited his fouls from one every 5.9 minutes last season to one every 24.3 minutes this season.
“He’s worked at it, he really has, and he was really held back with the shoulder problem,” Ryan said. “That shoulder problem has been taken care of and his last two years he’s going to be a good player in the Big Ten and the country, period.”
Through three games, Berggren is averaging 11.0 points and 5.7 rebounds per game, scoring at least nine points in every game thus far. He has also attempted the second-most 3-pointers on the team (13), making three.
“He can shoot from three,” Ryan said. “He can hit five in a row from three, not that we want him hanging out there all the time. If you can have bigs that can stretch the floor, it can give you a better chance to win, especially against certain teams.”
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