Behind Enemy Lines: Wisconsin Coach Bo Ryan

By Neal Rothschild, Daily Sports Editor
Published February 7, 2013

In a conference full of colorful coaches — with competition from Tom Izzo, Tim Miles and Bill Carmody — Bo Ryan is perhaps the most brash. The most senior coach in the conference never seems to have the best talent, but is able to grind down teams by working the ball for the duration of the 35-second shot clock.

That slow-pace style — along with the electric Kohl Center, where the third-ranked Wolverines will travel to on Saturday — represents one of the most daunting home-court advantages in the conference.

No matter the discrepancy in talent, the Badgers find a way to make any game — particularly in Madison — a heart-stopper.

The Daily talked to Ryan at Big Ten Media Day in October to try to make sense of why it’s so tough to play on the road.

The Michigan Daily: Everyone talks about how hard it is to win on the road. Can you try to quantify that? Does that mean harder venues or more parity on the road?

Bo Ryan: Let’s face it: in college basketball, road wins are so special. I don’t care who you are. Whether you’re the No. 1 team (or) the 20th-ranked team. Basketball is the sport where the home team, from what I’m told, wins more games than any other sport. Now, is that because we don’t have any helmets on, we’re in t-shirts and shorts — not the coaches — and fans are fairly close? You’re sleeping in another bed, you’re using a different pillow, your time routine has changed a little bit. Travel changes people. There’s a routine we all get into, whether we like it or not. Therefore, your biorhythms … it’s different. In order to overcome that on the road, you’ve got to have guys that can tune voices out, distractions out.

TMD: Do you think that’s exaggerated in the Big Ten?

BR: Here’s why it should be exaggerated in our league: We lead the nation in attendance every year. So that has to do with the environments we go in. We don’t go into a facility that’s one-third full. Most of the venues we’re in, it’s pretty well packed. At least the area down below. But it’s pretty loud. Can you imagine being on the floor at the Kohl Center if you’re on the other team? We try to make it uncomfortable that way.

TMD: What’s it like not having Jordan Taylor at practice? (Taylor, the former Badger point guard, is currently playing professionally in Italy.)

BR: I already Skyped with him. I didn’t (do it on my own). (Video Coordinator and former Badger) Joe Krabbenhoft brought me up his cell phone. So I’m standing at the top of the hill and I was talking to Jordan. Of course I take the thing like this (holding it up close to his eyes) because I didn’t have my reading glasses on. I thought I was reading something when he handed me the phone. “Uhh, coach. I can see your nostrils.” ‘Ohh, Jordan! Oh, Jordan, that’s you! How you doin’, buddy?’ So we had a great talk. He’s sitting in Rome eating and I said you could probably do a lot of that over there. Food’s pretty good in Italy.

I do miss him being around because of his personality, his juice that he brought to the team. But, we’ve had other guys like that. Somebody else comes in and you have to go to the next.

TMD: Where do you see your offensive philosophy as it fits into the rest of college basketball?

BR: The nature of the game right now is that you get 35 seconds to get production. What do you want to come away with? Mine’s always been, it’s kind of ironic, but when I first got into the league, I’d never heard people talk about points per possession. I’ve been doing it since the ‘70s. And every team I’ve ever coached used points per possession as a measuring stick because in practice we keep it. As Devin (Harris) can tell you, all the way through now, (injured Josh) Gasser, during practice if you’re not getting one (point per possession) or above, you end up getting a little more exercise. I don’t call it punishment. You just get your lungs expanded a little bit more.