As the wins piled up through the month of February, the refrain around the Wisconsin men’s basketball program changed from “who” to “when?” The question became less about who would lead the Badgers on a full-time basis, but when that decision would become official. On Monday, it did.
After the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents approved his contract Monday night, Greg Gard was named the 16th head men’s basketball coach in UW history.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to be named the head coach at the University of Wisconsin,” Gard said. “I’m extremely thankful to Coach Alvarez, the Athletic Board and the Board of Regents for this incredible opportunity to lead my home-state program into the future. It’s a role and a responsibility that I cherish and take extremely seriously. It’s been a long journey over the last quarter-century or so, but for me to be able to spend my entire career in this state and be surrounded by such incredible support has been vital to my success. I am so grateful to everyone who has played an integral part in my development.
“I am thankful to Coach Ryan for the opportunity he gave me to be a college coach over 25 years ago. He has been a positive mentor in the professional development of my career and showed great confidence in my abilities and potential as I grew as a young coach.
“I’m looking forward to building on the great tradition at Wisconsin and representing my home state in a manner that can make Badgers fans proud.”
“As I said many times throughout the past weeks, I’ve been very impressed with the job Greg has done with this team,” UW Director of Athletics Barry Alvarez said. “Not just from a wins and losses perspective but also in terms of player development and making necessary adjustments. It became clear to me as the season wore on and I was able to observe Greg both on and off the court that he was the right person to lead our men’s basketball team. I was extremely excited to be able to offer him the job and fully believe that the program is in good hands for years to come.”
A Wisconsin assistant since 2001, Gard, 45, took over as the Badgers’ interim head coach following the retirement of longtime head coach Bo Ryan on Dec. 15. A week later, having begun installation of the Swing offense that had brought UW much success in the past, Gard led the Badgers to an 84-79 win over Green Bay in his head coaching debut.
The transition to Gard’s leadership began with a 1-4 start to the Big Ten Conference season, leaving UW at 9-9 overall, but it didn’t take long for the Badgers to adjust. Wisconsin proceeded on a run that saw them become one of the nation’s hottest teams down the stretch of the regular season, winning 11 of their final 13 games.
A 77-76 victory over fourth-ranked Michigan State at the Kohl Center on Jan. 17 was the beginning of a seven-game win streak that also featured a home win over No. 19 Indiana and an impressive road triumph at No. 2 Maryland. The Badgers later added another road win over No. 8 Iowa on Feb. 24.
Over the season’s final seven weeks, Wisconsin lost just twice — on the road at the hands of No. 8 Michigan State and No. 15 Purdue.
UW finished the regular season in a tie for third place in the Big Ten standings — extending its streak of top-four finishes to a league-record 16th-consecutive season — with a 12-6 conference record.
In 15 seasons on the Badgers’ bench, Gard has never seen the Badgers finish lower than fourth while amassing a mark of 184-74 (.713) in Big Ten play.
Gard joined the UW staff when Ryan became head coach 2001, and he was promoted to associate head coach in 2008, serving as the Badgers’ recruiting coordinator in addition to on-floor coaching duties, opponent scouting and game preparation, and the constructing of future game schedules.
Gard’s 13th and 14th seasons in Madison were some of the program’s most memorable. He helped guide the Badgers to back-to-back Final Four appearances in 2014 and 2015, and in 2015 UW reached its first national championship game since 1941. Wisconsin shattered the school’s single-season wins record (36) in 2015 and became one of just 10 teams with at least 36 wins in Division I history. In 2014, UW finished 30-8 and won at least 30 games for just the third time in school history.
In fact, Gard has been on the bench for each of the top 11 winningest seasons at Wisconsin.
Gard has helped pilot the Badgers to four Big Ten regular season titles and three Big Ten tournament championships, most recently winning both crowns in 2015. UW has made the NCAA tournament in each of Gard’s first 14 seasons at UW, advancing to seven Sweet 16s three Elite Eights and two Final Fours.
Gard came to the Badgers after spending the previous two seasons as Ryan’s assistant at UW-Milwaukee, where he had responsibilities in scouting, summer basketball camp operations and on-floor coaching, as well as involvement with recruiting.
Previously, Gard served as an assistant coach to Ryan at UW-Platteville from 1993-99. During Gard’s years on the Pioneer staff, UW-Platteville compiled a 161-13 (.925) record and won three NCAA Division III titles, five straight Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) championships and appeared in six consecutive NCAA tournaments. In his final year at UW-Platteville, Gard served as Ryan’s top assistant in charge of recruiting, camp operations and scouting. He also worked as an advisor in the university’s admissions office.
Prior to joining Ryan’s staff in Platteville, Gard spent three seasons at Southwestern High School and one at Platteville High School, where he served in junior high and assistant varsity coaching capacities.
Gard is a 1995 graduate of UW-Platteville with a degree in physical and health education. He received a master’s degree in counselor education from Platteville in 2007. Gard and his wife, Michelle, have two daughters Mackenzie and Peyton and a son, Isaac.