MADISON – The applause started as soon as Bo Ryan and his wife, Kelly, began their walk onto the Kohl Center court.
The roars grew louder and a standing ovation lasted for 45 seconds during the start of a halftime ceremony Friday night to salute the coach who took Wisconsin to 14 consecutive NCAA Tournaments.
“All I know is that I stand here representing thousands of people,” said Ryan, who made his first public appearance at the Kohl Center since he coached his last game, on Dec. 15, 2015. “Thousands of people had a part in it.”
Ryan was able to watch UW play well for most of the 40 minutes en route to an easy 72-34 victory over UW-Green Bay and his son, second-year coach Will Ryan.
Steven Crowl (18 points, seven rebounds), Johnny Davis (15 points, five rebounds) and Brad Davison (15 points, three rebounds) combined for 48 points, 15 rebounds and 17-for-35 shooting for UW (2-0).
BOX SCORE: UW 72, UWGB 34
Ryan, who turns 74 next month, thanked the fans, his assistants, support staff, athletic directors Pat Richter and Barry Alvarez and his former players.
“We’re probably one of the only schools in the country where you people get more excited about us taking a charge than you did for us on an alley-oop,” he said, drawing a huge roar from the crowd. “That’s what made it fun coaching here because you appreciated good basketball and you still do.
He saluted Richter and Alvarez.
“Pat Richter taking a chance on a guy who was a D3 coach, basically,” Ryan said. “And then Barry coming in and taking care of everything else after Pat retired.”
And his many assistants.
“We’ve had so many good teachers,” he said. “I tried to hire teachers, people who would do things like a teacher. And I think our guys did a pretty good job of teaching.”
Ryan compiled a record of 364-130 in 14-plus seasons at UW. He led the Badgers to the NCAA Tournament every season, and Wisconsin reached the Final Four in 2013-14 and 2014-15, his last two full seasons at UW.
The night was special for Greg Gard, who worked under Ryan at UW-Platteville, UW-Milwaukee and finally for 14-plus seasons at UW before taking over the program, and UW assistants Joe Krabbenhoft and Sharif Chambliss, as well.
“Spending some time with him this afternoon,” Gard said after the game, “he was pretty touched.”
Krabbenhoft played for Ryan from 2006-2009 and served as video coordinator from 2012-2013. Chambliss, a graduate of Racine St. Catherine’s High School, signed with Penn State but transferred to UW for his final season and helped the Badgers reach the Elite Eight in 2005. He served as UW’s video coordinator from 2010-2012.
“I owe him a debt of gratitude that I can’t repay,” Krabbenhoft, who is in his sixth season under Gard, said before the game. “But the best way to honor him is to play the game the right way and to coach the guys the way he coached me and teach them the things he taught me.
“It is amazing that all the lessons we learned that, at the time I thought were just applicable to the game.… How to win. How to get the most out of every possession.
“It is just a game, but it can translate to life.”
Krabbenhoft hasn’t forgotten how Ryan used to squat like a catcher in front of the UW bench, sometimes for possession after possession.
“I crack up when I see Coach Gard do Bo Ryan things,” he said. “Sometimes I’ll just smile under my mask when I look over and he is doing the Bo Ryan squat. He doesn’t last as long as coach Ryan used to.”
Chambliss, in his first season under Gard, remembers Ryan’s devotion to his players.
“I just knew he had your back as a player,” he said. “If there was something about the refs … you just knew he had your back.”
He also recalls how Ryan never used a whiteboard to draw up a play during a timeout.
“He tried to put us in situations in practice that we were comfortable with so we were comfortable with those situations when it came to the games,” Chambliss said. “He did a great job doing that.
“I’m excited to be a part of the game.”
So was Krabbenhoft.
“The program … we wouldn’t be who we are and what we are to this day without him,” Krabbenhoft said. “This program year in and year out does things the right way. I think we owe it to him.”
Ryan appeared at ease standing at center court. The fans sounded as if they were excited to see him back.
“All the good times that we had,” Ryan said. “Going to the tournaments, playing in front of huge crowds. Traveling all across the country. All those things were great. And there is no way in the world I would have been able to do that without Kelly. She is the rock and everybody knows that.”
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin 72, UW-Green Bay 34: Ex-coach Bo Ryan during halftime