(From prior to the 2000-2001 Season)
It didn’t take long for Bo Ryan to make his mark on the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee men’s basketball program. In his first year at the helm, Ryan led the Panthers to a 15-14 record, their most successful season in seven years. Plus, UWM made the semifinals of the Midwestern Collegiate Conference Tournament for the first time ever.
"We established a heck of a foundation for the work ethic it takes to be successful," Ryan said. "The players worked very hard in the off-season. They are stronger, and they are thicker."
The Milwaukee area took notice of the Panthers. Attendance was up 161 percent at the Klotsche Center from the 1998-99 season, and the three largest crowds in Klotsche Center history moved through the turnstiles a season ago. Ryan has never shied away from a challenge. When he moved from his assistant coaching position at the University of Wisconsin to the head coaching position at UW-Platteville, most critics told him he could never turn the Division III program around. Fifteen seasons later, Ryan was the winningest coach in NCAA Division III history.
When moving to UWM, people again told Ryan he couldn’t win with the Panthers.
One season into his tenure, the head coach has already begun building a new tradition for Panther basketball. Plus, UWM immediately embarked on their most-difficult non-conference schedule in school history - making trips to Cincinnati, Iowa State, Utah and Ball State while also hosting Wisconsin. Ryan is excited about what lies ahead.
"UWM is a great place to be and I think the word spread extremely fast over the course of the season when people saw us play," Ryan said. "I’ve had several calls and comments since the end of last season stating that they couldn’t believe how hard those guys were playing and how much fun they were having.
That definitely carried over into the recruiting process and is another building block as we continue to push this program in the right direction." Ryan is still hopeful of connecting with more people and giving Panther alums a team to be proud of.
"In trying to build a program, we’re trying to connect to the alumni," Ryan said. "We’re trying to get the message to them that we’re trying to represent their alma mater in a first class way."
When Ryan made his move across the state in April of 1999, he surrounded himself with familiar faces, hiring UW-Platteville graduates Rob Jeter, Greg Gard and Saul Phillips as his assistants.
"When you take over a program, you have to establish lines of communication," Ryan said. "The easy part was with the coaches, because I was familiar with them. That transition went as smooth as can be.
"With the players, there’s always going to be doubts," Ryan continued. "They wonder what you’re going to be like, what you’re going to expect, what you will let them get away with.
"You have to present them with your system and your expectations, and I’m very proud of they way they’ve taken to it and worked hard to be successful." Ryan also knows the challenge will only grow more difficult.
"People definitely are going to be prepared for us," the coach said. "We did establish the work ethic. We did establish the system. Now the execution of that system becomes the most important aspect."
In total, Ryan won 353 games in his 15 years at UW-Platteville. The Pioneers were 30-2 during Ryan’s last season there, and won a fourth NCAA Division III National Championship - and a second straight crown - with a 76-75 double-overtime victory over Hampden-Sydney (Va.).
Ryan, 52, took his UW-Platteville teams to the NCAA tournament every year once the Pioneers moved to the NCAA for the 1990-91 season. The school’s postseason mark of 30-5 includes back-to-back national championships in 1998 and 1999, as well as titles in 1991 and 1995.
The Pioneers also recorded eight conference championships (1988, '90, '93, '95, '96, '97, '98, '99) under Ryan. Platteville became the first team in the 85-year history of the now-Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference to win consecutive outright championships.
A native of Chester, Pa., Ryan was an assistant under Virginia coach Pete Gillen for the gold-medal winning North squad at the 1993 U.S. Olympic Festival and under Atlanta Hawks coach Lon Kruger for the gold-medal winning USA team at the 1995 World University Games.
Prior to joining the Pioneers in 1984, Ryan was an assistant coach at the University of Wisconsin for eight years under both Bill Cofield and Steve Yoder.
Ryan was the captain and most valuable player during his senior season at Wilkes College, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1969.
A high-scoring guard who still holds two Wilkes (Pa.) College records (18 field goals in a game and 28 field goal attempts), Ryan moved from Wilkes to Villanova University, where he did graduate work before taking an assistant coaching position in Wisconsin at the College of Racine.
Ryan accepted his first head coaching position at Sun Valley High School in Philadelphia, where he was named the Deleware County Coach of the Year after directing his team to a second-place finish in the Philadelphia Suburban League.
His 1976 squad was the first from the school to make it to the state tournament.
Ryan is the author of three books on coaching basketball, Passing and Catching: A Lost Art, How to Run the Swing Offense and Applying and Attacking Pressure. He has also produced five basketball instructional videos.
Ryan and his wife, Kelly, have five children - Megan, Will, Matt, Brenna and Mairin.