Ryan Prepares for Another Dance

Bo Ryan (USA Today Sports)

Before coaching in his 13th NCAA tournament, Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan addresses the media on Wednesday.

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Opening Statement

COACH Bo Ryan: Well, I've said so many times I'm proud of our guys and the fact that they accomplished what they did over the whole season. If you look at our record and all the different factors there involved in seeding and everything else, I think they deserved to be here, and now we got the make something happen when we we're here.

Somebody mentioned 0-0. Yeah, there aren't any records coming into the NCAA Tournament. You got 40 minutes. That's all you're guaranteed. Do you want 240 minutes? Well, you got to earn those, too. So, we're happy to be here and can't wait to get started.

Q. Bo, it's been a couple days. Has the fact that you've got 700 wins sunk in? And when you started out in coaching, would you ever imagine getting -- becoming a member of that club?

COACH BO RYAN: No. Maybe some of the other people in the room have heard this, but, you know, I was an economics major in college. Was a good enough player to get drafted by the Army in 1969 (laughter). It took a little while, didn't it?

And while I was in the service, I realized how much I missed athletics, team sports. I had been playing since I was a kid on a team in football, baseball, basketball every year, and my dad had coached kids for 40 years, not receiving a penny. Did it because he wanted to try to help them and have a childhood different than his when he grew up.

So I decided to coach and teach. I had to go back and get my teaching certification. When you say 700 wins, I did not get into teaching and coaching for the number of wins, for the money, it was a passion for trying to help young people. And I started in junior high school in 1972, right outside of Philadelphia in Chester, at Brookhaven Junior High School.

Then things have just moved on from there. But 700, that seems like a high number. Jokingly my first response when I was asked in a post-game interview, I said because I'm old. I never received more text messages or e-mails in all my coaching career than I did after that, and it was 50/50.

Some people said, "yeah, you are," and the other 50 said, "hey, you're not old." So I must be somewhere in the middle. But lot of good players, lot of good assistants, lot of great fans, like of great administrators, and just all of it coming together and putting a lot of numbers on the left-hand side is a fun achievement. But it's fun because I think back to the very first game that I coached at UW-Platteville in 1984. And every game since then still there's a memory there somewhere, and it's a nice feeling, but the feeling is because of all the people that you've had a chance to touch.

Q. Coach, when the team is going through that stretch of losing five of six, do you feel like they came out of that, did you see that they came out of that maybe had a tougher team mentally, bonded together in that moment and helped for that run at the end?

COACH BO RYAN: Again, I'm going to say it this way, and you might want to dwell on this for awhile. If you take our 16 games in the Big Ten, shuffle them up and put them out in some other order, we could have been 12-6, no matter how you sliced it. The teams that we played when we took those bumps were playing well. We weren't shooting it that well. We went through a little slump. But the teams that beat us were good teams. And I mean Northwestern was playing as well as anybody in the country when they came into our place. They had won three, four in a row. They went through a stretch. You know, in losing on the road to a couple teams, Ohio State was playing pretty well, playing real well at that time against us.

So, they didn't fray, they didn't tear apart. They stayed together because they knew that if we did certain things, and you could tell that from the video sessions, if we do these certain things, we're going to get it back. And then to win eight of the last ten and get back on that way, we lost to two pretty good teams, Nebraska at Nebraska, and Michigan State when they had everybody healthy in the Big Ten Tournament. So now we start the third season.

Q. What challenges does American present to your team and what have you seen when you watch them on tape?

COACH BO RYAN: American Magazine?

Q. American University.

COACH BO RYAN: Coach Brennan has done a great job of installing his offensive philosophy. You can always tell if somebody can coach and teach based upon how players read and react to the vision that a coach has. He played in the Princeton system. I coached against Princeton-type high school teams in the '70's back in Pennsylvania because of Pete Carril being from Pennsylvania and having coached high school in Pennsylvania before he went to Princeton and there were a lot of disciples back then when I was coaching.

So, now I see his team running it and it's obvious he played in the system, knows how to teach -- knowing the reads is one thing. Teaching people to use them and to understand them, that's the next level. He's definitely got his players at that next level. They run that offense better than just about every other teams.

Coach Carmody had some teams that ran it well overall, I would say American runs it better than any team I've seen. And one of my first games was at the Palestra was seeing Bill Bradley, but I think Van Breda Kolff was coaching then, right? So I didn't see the Princeton offense as a youngster when I went to the Palestra, but I did see it later on and some of the people who running it in the '70's in Pennsylvania.

Q. You've never been one to jump at the next best thing or the -- the latest thing, whether it's a school or a system of play. What taught you that early in your career that you stick with what works?

COACH BO RYAN: I remember personal happiness, do you enjoy your environment, and I always tell young coaches when they're asking for advice, you know, take a job at a place where you can coach for five years or 50 years. Because if you take a job and you're always looking left, right, behind you, in front of you, if you're always looking in different directions, you're not going to do as good a job with the people who believed you in the first place and hired you.

So, if you're hired to do a job, for a nickel, give them a dime's worth. That's been my philosophy that I learned from my parents. I'm sure they learned from their parents. And to me, it's all about practicality. But, you know, you still have some fun. I'm old school, but we still have fun playing the game and I got some zingers. I got some one-liners I use every once in awhile to keep the guys loose. I'm not one of those guys to get caught up in fads or anything like that.

I think this is the same top I had in '04 when we played here against Richmond and Pittsburgh. I just thought about that when you asked about -- this might be the same one. I'm not sure.

Q. Where does Frank Kaminsky rank among most coachable players that you've ever come across? You talked to some of these old coaches, they all say how coachable he is. How did the light go on for him this year?

COACH BO RYAN: He's perceptive, he's smart. He sees more than you probably realize about the game. He understands the game. He knows it. Physically and mentally when are you taller than most people and your body is trying to -- you can't tell Frank Kaminsky he's not quite developed yet because he still wants to play the point because they let him in high school a little bit.

I don't know how he got to do that, but he can pass, he can do all that. He's developed so many different parts of his game because he cares. He wants to be the best player he can be and play on the best team that he could possibly play on.

So, even though sometimes you might not think he's listening, he gets in Frank's world, so to speak, he's listening because you can see it the next time out and can see it in the next possession. You can see it if you give him some constructive criticism. He's not going to be one of those guys that looks at you and goes, "Yeah, yeah, Coach, you're right, you're right."

He might look at you like, "Coach, do you know what you're talking about?" It's not a sarcastic look. It's just have you looked at Frank? Sometimes he has a face that looks like he really is somewhere else, but he's not. So I've learned not to interpret it that way. So, he is a good listener. He's a hard work worker, and you haven't seen the best of Frank Kaminsky yet. He's going to get even better over time.

Q. Bo, just curious how much stock you put in a lot of the offensive and defensive analytics that have become popular in the last couple years.

COACH BO RYAN: Well, I think it's good because I know people who have those types of minds need something to do, and that's a good channel. That's a good way to channel your love of numbers. I think it's information that can be used like any other bits of information, and, you know, I don't know if you went back to all the national championship games or the NBA championship teams, I don't know how all that computes. But it's just the beginning. They'll be more and more. They'll be -- if a guy wore goggles and he played in 40 games, then he miss passes because he couldn't see peripherally as well as somebody else, they'll have a number for that. It's not because you have glasses on.

If he touched the ball in the paint 15 times, 13 times this happened. There's a lot of different ways to use information, but I've been using points per possession forever from the '70's.

Q. First of all, I was wondering if we could hear some of your one line zingers and also to the program's 16th trip here. I was wondering if you guys take the time to enjoy some of the perks or smell the roses a little bit or it's strictly a business trip for you guys?

COACH BO RYAN: Well, business trip is not a good term to use because these young men have four years for the most part on their timeline where they get to do this. I've had a chance to do it more because I'm very fortunate.

So, I try to give them the opportunity to appreciate what their surroundings are, how fortunate they are to have used their hard work to get something. But this is part of the getting.

I use the term a lot, it's fun to want. Every season starts and that's -- I had to explain this the last time. Want, W-A-N-T. It's fun to want. As my parents always said. You got to have -- like what is it out there you would like to get? Every basketball player starts a season with the idea they want to be the last team standing and it's very difficult in basketball. Every high school kid, they want to win the state championship.

So we talk about the experience, we talk about making sure you understand that so-called fame is fleeting, meaning, okay, you're in the tournament, you're going to hear a lot of nice things said about you and the team and -- but you have to understand that American doesn't care. Your next opponent, it happens to be American. So what they want to do is they're trying to get to be as good as they can be tomorrow. That's what we're trying to do.

The one-liners, I'm on at 8:00 tonight down at the -- no. With the players. It's like you see something happen and you say something and they go, "Coach, where did you get that from?" I got a guy that beats me, and old line is obviously the early bird catches the worm as we're done with our video session. Nigel always tries to beat me to the court. I said, "good, Nigel, the early bird catches the worm."

"Coach, the second mouse always gets the cheese." I never heard it (laughter).

I said, "All right, Nigel, you got one on me." What do you call about a hundred crows on a fence? A murder of crows. What do you call a hundred owls on a fence? Come on, you're with the New York Times. You're supposed to know that.

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