March 23, 2011
• Read this article in the latest edition of 'Varsity'
MADISON, Wis. -- During a Monday morning radio appearance on ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning – with Mike Golic and Doug Gottlieb, who was subbing for co-host Mike Greenberg – UW coach Bo Ryan talked about his disdain for college players who make faces and gestures after making a basket.
On the opposite end of such theatrics, Ryan suggested, is Mike Bruesewitz. After knocking down a cold-blooded 3-point shot in the closing minutes of Saturday’s win against Kansas State, Ryan said Bruesewitz got back on defense like “Opie on a bad hair day with a big smile on his face.’’
Opie Taylor was the character played by Ron Howard in the old Andy Griffith television show. “That’s how I have fun,’’ Ryan said of Bruesewitz’ youthful enthusiasm, “because I watch life through these kids. I’m not saying I’ve seen everything, but I get excited when they excited.’’
Late Monday morning, Ryan was seated attentively behind his office desk. On the wall directly across from him was a giant-sized picture of the Kohl Center, the Home of the Badgers.
Hanging from one side was a picture of Ryan cutting down the nets.
Hanging from the other side was a picture of Ryan and wife Kelly celebrating a Big Ten title.
On the coffee table, there were pictures of their five kids.
On the end table, there were pictures of their grand-kids.
Ryan’s office is tastefully done in a “Family and Championships’’ décor.
On a side wall are photos of Kirk Penney, Devin Harris, Mike Wilkinson, Alando Tucker and Brian Butch. All were first-team All-Big Ten under Ryan. Jordan Taylor and Jon Leuer will soon go up on the wall. “We have to have a standard if we’re going to put a player up there,’’ Ryan said.
Work ethic. Persistence. Discipline. Fundamentals.
Those are the standards for Ryan’s program; the proverbial handwriting on the wall.
The words are just above the pictures of the All-Big Ten players.
There is a peach basket in his office, too; hanging above an old-school player from the ‘20s.
“I wanted something that shows respect for the past,’’ Ryan said.
He’s corny that way – in a good way – in a way that his players can relate. “They just wanted to be a good team,’’ he said of their team goals. “How corny is that?’’
During a Monday teleconference, Leuer was asked if the players reflect the coach. “I think our team personifies what he’s all about,’’ he said. “We understand his system and we’ve bought into it.’’
Leuer went on to say he didn’t think the UW system was that much different from others. “We have guys that are just willing to work hard and do anything for each other, first and foremost,’’ he said.
But that didn’t appease one questioner who followed up with, “I think the perception is that it is different. And maybe it’s boring. Do you get the sense that some people view it that way?’’
Leuer didn’t flinch.
“I don’t really think so,’’ he said. “We know how to win games. Jordan said it best in the press conference a few days ago. There are a lot of other channels on television, so if you think it’s boring, then watch something else. We’re just going to do whatever we have to do to get the job done.’’
Taylor elaborated. “Every coach has a set of philosophies that they will make a team successful,’’ he said. “And Coach Ryan has his – it’s taking care of the ball and getting good shots. And I wouldn’t even say it’s too different from a lot of other teams. But it definitely works.’’
Next on the teleconference was Ryan, who reiterated his mission statement.
“The constants are good screens, good cuts, trying to get to the free throw line, and if people don’t see a lot of high-flying dunks, that’s too bad,’’ he said. “I’m still about substance, not flash. I like my players to be that way. The game of basketball is something that needs to be respected.’’
The goal is the same every season – to put his players in a position to have success.
“The best way to pay your dues is to try and do it the right way,’’ he said.
Some seasons are better than others. Like this season, especially since everybody had the Badgers finishing in the bottom half of the Big Ten. Now, they’re one of two league teams still alive in the NCAA tournament. Ryan was asked if he had reached a new excitement “high’’ during the Kansas State victory.
“My excitement comes from watching young men figure a few things out and getting excited themselves,’’ he said. “That’s like me passing out tests when I coached and taught in high school. Some kid gets an ‘A’ on the test and he starts smiling and then I start smiling.’’
Lately nobody has put a bigger smile on his face than “Bruiser,” Mike Bruesewitz.