"The Voice" with Matt Lepay

The spring sports season rolls on, but for yours truly this week marks the end of the 2009-10 seasons for the two programs I cover on a daily basis.  Of course, football wrapped up its spring drills on Saturday, while this evening the men's basketball team gathers one final time for the annual spring reception.  This is the time of year when it can be interesting to look back at what has happened not just this season, but in recent years.  It also can serve as a reminder that if you are Badger fan, life continues to be pretty good, and a postseason function such as the one tonight truly serves as a celebration.   Sometimes that isn't the case.
Any "veteran" UW basketball fan knows there was a time when coaching changes were rather frequent.  In my time in Madison, Bo Ryan is coach number six, and I have worked with him longer than any of his predecessors.  Longevity and lots of wins have made for some very good times and plenty of memorable games to relive during the receptions.  I for one truly appreciate this type of evening, but I also have learned not to take it for granted.

The 1995 basketball postseason banquet was, shall we say, a bit bumpy.  That was the year Stan Van Gundy took over for Stu Jackson, and the Badgers finished with a 13-14 record.  As I have stated in the past, I think the world of Stan, who clearly has proven to be an outstanding NBA coach.  However, that was a rough year, and the school decided to make a coaching change.  Suffice to say the night of the banquet, Van Gundy was not in a great mood.  Sensing he might be a distraction on a night when the team was honoring its seniors, including Michael Finley, Athletics Director Pat Richter opted not to attend the festivities.  Richter's decision went over poorly, and unfortunately the night was more about who wasn't there than anything else.  Truth be told, Richter was in a no-win situation.  Had he been in the room that night, it likely would have been quite uncomfortable as well.  Let's just say there was no shortage of tension in the room.  The good news is everyone survived and is living happily ever after.

Fast forward to the 2000-01 campaign. Brad Soderberg took over after Dick Bennett stepped down three games into the season.  Under the circumstances, Soderberg did well, but Richter made the difficult decision to make one more change.  At that year's banquet, Soderberg did all he could to keep his emotions in check.  Richter was there for the event.  Yet it was obvious by some players' comments, and most notably from Dick Bennett, that there were ill feelings about the decision.  Bennett particularly was upset after some anonymous quotes critical of his system appeared in the paper.  The former coach fired off a strong rebuttal at the banquet.  It made for quite an eventful evening.  Again, it is good to see that it appears folks have moved on.  When the 2000 Final Four team gathered for its 10-year reunion, Richter and Bennett had a warm embrace and a nice conversation.  Soderberg is coaching again.  Oh, by the way, that next hire at Wisconsin has turned out rather well.

My point here is not to re-hash what for some are less than pleasant memories.  It is more to show appreciation for a stable, winning program.   There was a time when it was a relief to see the season end.  It has been a long time since there has been reason to think that way.  For the past several years, the postseason reception has been a smooth, enjoyable gathering as fans can applaud another very good basketball team one more time.  I am looking forward to it.

Thanks for taking a few minutes to check out my blogs.  Next week, we get to "trade up" as I make way for my wife Linda to put an official end to our blogging season.
ON WISCONSIN