Bo Ryan reveals secret of his success at Wisconsin


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Bo Ryan has more media skills than most coaches. Not just Big Ten coaches, or basketball coaches, but all almost all coaches. It’s too bad that most postgame press conferences aren’t Bo Ryan postgame press conferences. Because he actually says something.

He’s truly interesting.

I understand why most “leaders of young men” revert to Coachy McCoachington type coachspeak at these things- they don’t want to give away the store.

Ryan is different; he is slick enough and intelligent enough to provide “good copy” and not give his opponents any intel to use against him at the same time.

bo ryan

Bo Ryan’s secret to success in recruiting: “Under-promise and over-deliver.”

That’s what he said Sunday in Evanston after obliterating Northwestern by…a lot. The philosophy that wins over recruits also wins the press conference. And Big Ten regular season championships. Wins Big Ten Tournament championships too.

“I haven’t been accused of over-selling any recruits. I don’t text, every once in awhile I’ll send a blurb. So when young men come into Wisconsin, I don’t have to remember what I said to them,” said Ryan.

“I know coaches that have to go ‘okay what did I promise that guy?’ How many minutes did I tell him he was going to get?’ bo Ryan asked (half-jokingly)”

“I’ve never had to do it.”

bo ryan wisconsin

“So they know coming in, there’s a lot of hard work, there’s guys in front of ’em who want their spots, and want to go take ’em.”

It’s a cliche, “recruiting to his system,” but it’s true. Bo Ryan is the paradigm. Wisconsin does not consistently pursue 5-star or 4-star recruits. You rarely, if ever find someone headed to UW in the McDonald’s All-American game. One-and-done will not likely happen in Madison.

Instead, Wisconsin gets talented guys who fit a certain mold prioritized by their coach. This identity is well-established at Wisconsin. Credit to UW Athletic Director Barry Alvarez, in both sports, they know exactly who they are.

bo ryan

Wisconsin Badgers football is big, fat white guys blocking for insanely athletic and extraordinarily fast tailbacks. Run the ball over and over. Lather. Rinse and repeat.

Wisconsin Badgers basketball is much more than just tall white guys who can shoot. (They are a dream team, if this was European basketball) Yes, there’s been plenty of Mike Wilkinson and Jon Leuer clones coming through Bo Ryan ‘s program over the years, but the Badgers have a specific identity on defense.

“Our philosophy has never changed, take away the rim, take away the rim and try to make people make tough twos, two point jump shots,” said Ryan in Evanston.

“Have ’em make tough twos.”

bo ryan

Identity is important. It matters a lot more than you think it does. Look at the issues at both Illinois and Michigan right now to see why identity matters. They don’t have an identity, in either sport, in Ann Arbor or Champaign right now.

“Kaminsky was not Kaminsky when he was a freshmen,” said Northwestern Coach Chris Collins of the Badgers preseason All-American big man.

“He’s only been Kaminsky the past two years. He hardly played as a freshmen. They’re a developmental program, they develop guys, they work, they get better and then you see the finished products.”


Bo Ryan develops; it’s what he does. His recruiting style is perfectly suited to his talents and abilities.

Paul M. Banks owns, operates and writes The Sports ,which is partners with Fox Sports. Read his feature stories in the Chicago Tribune RedEye edition. Listen to him on KOZN 1620 The Zone. Follow him on Twitter (@paulmbanks). His work has been featured in hundreds of media outlets including The Washington Post and ESPN 2

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  1. Evidently this column was written before last night’s zebra assisted win over Purdue. Few teams lose when they shoot 31 free throws and their opponent shoots 7. Purdue was clearly the superior team and sadly the Badgers don’t have to visit Mackey Arena this year where they would be soundly exposed ! ! ! Purdue is one of the youngest teams in their league and will be a force to be reckoned with for some time to come.

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