March 3, 2014
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin men's basketball head coach Bo Ryan met with members of the media Monday at the Kohl Center to look ahead to UW's home and regular-season finales, among other things.
Q. What type of conversation did you have with Zach Bohannon when he was considering transferring here? How did you assess his impact on the program now that Senior Day is here?
Bo Ryan: “Well, he's interested -- when you go to the service academies, you have a couple years, and then you decide whether or not that's still what you want to do.
We had talked, and he knew that Jason (Bohannon) had had a real good experience. He had come to a lot of games here. He knows about our academic reputation.
It didn't have anything to do with necessarily minutes or -- you know, he competed hard, and actually, kind of going into August, when we made the Canadian trip, between Evan and himself and Nigel, there was some strong competition there in the drills and everything else. And then Nigel basically, because of performance, took a lot of minutes. And Z-Bo, Zach was fine. He practiced hard every day, even though he's -- obviously he's not getting the minutes that everybody wants to get.
But that shows you the type of man that he is. And he's getting ready for a lot of other things for the next 60 years that are pretty important in his life, and we're certainly glad he did it with us as far as finishing his education and his basketball. He's pretty special."
Q. Kind of along those same lines, what about the impact that Ben (Brust) has made over the last four years?
RYAN: "Well, Ben is a young man who -- never tell somebody who's vertically challenged that they might not be good enough or might not be this, might not be that.
He knew he was a good player. He had a lot of confidence in his scoring ability. His defense, he figured somebody could teach him that, I guess.
So he's played extremely well on both ends of the floor. And obviously he's known for his 3-point shooting, but he's done a lot of other good things for us. Defensively, he's been able to handle guys bigger than him. He's been able to, speed-wise, beat guys to spots.
So his game, his all-around game -- he'll be known for his outside shooting, but his all-around game has helped put us each year where we are at the end.
Certainly glad he's put those four years in here."
Q. Ben's ability to guard guys bigger than he is, what are some of the keys for a guy who maybe can't match up in terms of size or perhaps even strength against a guy he's got to defend? What does he have to do?
RYAN: "You've been on a picnic before, you've been camping, you've been outdoors; how big is a mosquito? Not very big. But, boy, can it be a nuisance.
So what you do is -- this is kind of what I was taught by the coach I played for because he would put me on six-foot guards and he'd put me on 6'8", 6'9" guys, try to get -- try to be an annoyance, try to be a pest, try to get into guys a little bit, take them out of their game.
So that's pretty much what Ben does with his -- if he happens to be on a bigger guy, he's trying to pester them as much as he can. I know he's a real nice, fine, young man, but when he wants to pester someone, he can."
Q. A couple of guys yesterday expressed some disappointment that you guys have had some leads in the second half, big leads that, instead of extending them, you've kind of let other teams get back in the game. Do you chalk that up to -- does the team have a tendency to relax in those situations, or do you chalk it up to the other teams or --
RYAN: "The other team made some plays. So whatever the feelings are of a player, that's somebody expressing that they want to get better. That gets done out on the court.
The other team's trying too, doggone it."
Q. Bo, I know you need good players to maintain the level of consistency that Wisconsin's had since you came here, but what does it mean to keep that streak of finishing in the top four in the Big Ten every year and getting a first-round bye in the tournament? What does that mean to you as a coach?
RYAN: "First of all, you have to ask what would frustration do? Tell me what it's ever solved. Tell me what it's ever done. So it's not even a question that I can answer for you because I don't go there. I don't get frustrated that way because there's another practice coming, there's another chance.
The toughest time is at the end of the year. There's only one team that doesn't get a little frustrated because everybody else is knocked out. Most are knocked out before the tournament even starts.
So frustration is not something I have time for."
Q. Bo, if I remember correctly, last year the loss to Purdue on Senior Day was the first one for you since you were here. I know it's a big day for the kids. I'm just curious, was it difficult for you to see those seniors who went out experience that defeat on that day?
RYAN: “Well, no, because I saw how they felt after a lot of the other games that they won, that they were on the left-hand side. Plus there's a second season. So the Big Ten Tournament started, and we went out and made it to the finals. So I give the players a lot of credit for that.
If you want your life -- the meaning of your life to be about one game, then, boy, you're pretty shallow in your existence.
So those young men had put in all that time and all those hours and all those experiences, and that was one game.
So I think we're more mature than that. We're bigger than that, as individuals and as a team, to understand, okay, if that one got away from us, let's get the next one.
So they certainly weren't failures because they didn't finish the last game at home. How about all the other home games that that group gave the fans and themselves and their teammates and their fellow students?
It's a collection. A career is a collection.”
Q. Bo, as you mentioned with (Zach Bohannon), every player would like to play more minutes if they could. But along those lines with Evan Anderson, I know he maybe hasn't gotten the minutes that he would like, but what has impressed you most about his contribution to the program?
RYAN: “Because he's just worked every day. He's never had a bad practice from the standpoint of effort. There's a clip that I have in today's teaching film, in the teaching clips, of Evan Anderson on the bench getting up at Penn State and expressing his feelings about what's going on on the court. He wasn't yelling at an official. He was cheering his teammates on. He was -- and it's very evident because, when Evan stands up, there's nobody else that can stand as tall.
But Evan has been a true -- just, you know, again, when you're that big and there's situations where he might have had more time, but, again, it's still the emergence of other players. You have to reward people, and he's real close. He was very close.
He's had some real contributing moments for us this year. And every day he has contributed because of what he's done in practice. To go against Evan Anderson every day -- just ask the guys -- boy, does he set a mean screen; boy, is he tough to get around; boy, is he -- I mean, he's helped us get the record that we have right now, and that's not just saying it to say it.
His teammates know how important he is."
Q. I don't know if you got a chance to see it over the weekend, but I was just curious, what are your thoughts on Tony Bennett helping Virginia to their first ACC Championship in 30 years?
RYAN: “Well, I express that in my text messages, which I don't share with people. I don't have the other ways of communicating with him. And he responded, and that's great.
You know, anytime you can get a conference win in any conference, no matter what division, what level, that's pretty good stuff because that means you've -- you're the last team standing. Then they go to the ACC Tournament, it's the last team standing that gets the pats on the back. Then you go to the NCAA Tournament, there's one team, last team standing.
So anytime you can get a conference championship, those are always pretty special."
Q. I wanted to ask you a couple questions about a manager, Matt Meinholz, a guy that I understand that you have a past with. You wanted him to be a part of this team. What sort of example does he provide to this team, and why was it important to you to have him be a part of this group?
RYAN: “Well, first of all, Matt is a really good athlete in high school, and he -- a lot of the things in his life -- his life evolved around athletics. And then when he came down, when he was diagnosed, and then athletics was not going to be that part of his future to the extent that he had hoped for, just his -- what he did for our Coaches vs. Cancer gala in communicating with people, both he and his family, moved a lot of people.
He's a young man that wanted to be a basketball player, wanted to be -- so I said, all right, look, you can -- what I'd like you to do is come be a manager for us.
So he attended (University of Wisconsin) La Crosse and then transferred in and has been a manager here the past year, year and a half, whatever it's been.
He's actually playing some basketball now. He's playing at the SERF. I don't know if he's become king of the SERF. We always kid about guys being the king of the NAT, the king of the Shell, the king of the SERF. I tried to be when I first came here at 27, 28. I tried to be the king of the Shell because the SERF wasn't around yet. That didn't happen. But I had a lot of good pickup games over there.
So Matt is playing pickup games now. He's working at basketball, but he's also done a great job with the team and being around the team, and he understands -- you know, whenever you're someone who's beaten an enemy such as cancer, then you like to have those kind of people around because it keeps everything in perspective.
Q. If you don't mind a follow-up, he said it's his life goal to become a coach someday. Do you think -- you know, it's still very early on in his life. Do you think he has some of the attributes of a coach?
RYAN: “I took him -- there was a mirror out in the hallway. I took him to the mirror, and I said, Now, look, Matt. I said, Practice those facial expressions and you're well on your way to being a coach. I really didn't, but...
He's such a nice young man, I don't know if he has it in him to like ever get upset about something.
And, no, I wasn't doing Coach (Bob) Knight's game face. It might have been a little of that.
But, no, Matt loves the game. I think he'd be a very good coach. And I think he'd have to learn how to communicate with the officials in a way that he could have an effect, because, as we all know, good dialogue with coaches and officials is extremely important. So he'd have to work on that.
The X's and O's, I think he's fine.
Q. This a bit off the beaten path, so bear with me. After the Iowa-Wisconsin game, Fran McCaffery told his players not to use Twitter anymore for the rest of the season because of a player --
RYAN: “I actually had heard about that. So you're saying that like, well, he won't know."
Q. I'm giving you the background.
RYAN: “Actually, I was told that."
Q. Okay. Well, I'm wondering, have you ever considered implementing any kind of policy with your guys, or is it just sort of a, hey, use common sense --
RYAN: "It's always been common sense. I've already addressed that. The upperclassmen handle that with the underclassmen when they came in. We obviously have some guys on the team, I guess, that are more outward with their social communication.
But, hey, I was 18, 19, 20, 21. I have no idea what I would have been putting out there, but I've never been the kind of person to do that anyhow because I think what's your business is your business and why would you need to tell everybody where you were going to eat or who you saw with -- hey, I saw Johnny with Sally. Hey, we're at the...
I was never that kind of guy. So I don't understand all this stuff really. I guess I'm more private.
But I've never had to give a stern lecture, never had to -- so far.
You can tweet me your follow-up."