Bo Ryan's departure will mean the end of an old-school era

Bo Ryan is 357-125 in 14 seasons at Wisconsin. (AP)
Bo Ryan is 357-125 in 14 seasons at Wisconsin. (AP)

Wisconsin announced Monday that Bo Ryan will retire in 2016, and that will pretty much mark the end of an era in college basketball.

Ryan may well be the last guy to win big – really big – by building teams like it's still the 1970s.

Very little happens in a hurry in Ryan's program, which runs counter to our hurry-up society.

He will have seven players who redshirted on his final Badgers team. He had six of them on the team that lost to Duke in April's national championship game, including starter Josh Gasser and key sub Duje Dukan. Hardly anyone redshirts basketball players anymore, and almost never in bulk.

In a time when John Calipari, Mike Krzyzewski, Bill Self, Sean Miller and others go after national titles with one-and-done recruits, Ryan made consecutive Final Fours with rosters built on patience and long-term growth. Doing it in his late 60s, at the end of a lifetime of coaching, validates a philosophy many believed to be outdated.

"We don't do rent-a-player," Ryan said after losing the title game to Duke in April – a pugnacious and somewhat unsporting remark in defeat. But the truth of it in the context of 21st-century college basketball is undeniable.

"I like trying to build from within," he said. "That's just the way I am."

Frank Kaminsky arrived in Madison as a low-profile project and left it four years later as the national Player of the Year and a top-10 NBA draft pick. Traevon Jackson was an unranked three-star recruit whose scholarship offers largely were from Mid-American Conference schools who became a fixture in the backcourt. Ben Brust was an unranked three-star recruit who became the No. 2 scorer on the 2014 Final Four team.

[ThePostGame: Ex-Badger Sam Dekker gets drafted, still mows Mom's lawn]

The list goes on. And on. Ryan is simply unrivaled when it comes to player development and finding prospects who fit his unique system.

I checked the Rivals.com team recruiting rankings going back to 2003. In that 13-class span, this is how many times Wisconsin has been ranked in the top 25 (and later top 30): zero.

Yet Ryan's teams have played in the NCAA tournament every year since he arrived in Madison in 2001 (14 years running), won at least 23 games 11 times and had double-digit Big Ten wins 13 times. They are recession-proof. And they've made a lot of hotshot recruiters look bad by comparison.

Patience and long-term growth. They've become the Bo Ryan brand – and this is a guy who predates that corporate buzzword by a few decades. He's an unhurried program builder, and also an unhurried tactician.

The Badgers have been a famously deliberate (sometimes outright dawdling) team under Ryan. They chronically rank in the 300s in tempo rankings. Yet Ryan has found players who embrace that style and flourish within it, while endlessly frustrating impatient opponents.

Wisconsin has always run more clock. Made more passes. Made more cuts. And inevitably short-attention-span defenses crack and give up something.

But beyond tempo there is another eternal tent of Bo's system: don't beat yourself. Don't throw the ball away (Wisconsin led the nation in 2014-15 in lowest turnover percentage, and has ranked in the top five nationally in that category seven years in a row). Don't put the other team on the foul line (Wisconsin led the nation in lowest free-throw rate this past season). Simple stuff in theory, harder to do in practice.

The Badgers practice it to near perfection.

It is not always thrill-a-minute, but you cannot argue with the results. And while there is reason for Wisconsin fans to worry about a drop-off after Ryan leaves, there is every reason to believe the school has the ideal successor on staff.

Ryan said in his statement announcing his 2016 retirement that he hopes the job goes to assistant Greg Gard. I wrote this spring that Gard is way overdue to get a head-coaching job, and this might have been a big reason why he hasn't moved on – he was waiting to see what Ryan was going to do.

Ryan and his boss, athletic director Barry Alvarez, crave continuity. Gard would guarantee that, and probably would keep the Badgers at or near the top of the Big Ten pecking order. Nobody at Wisconsin is naming Gard the successor-in-waiting, but it's likely this seems like a no-brainer.

Ryan's final season as a basketball coach won't be easy. He's losing a pair of top-20 draft picks in Kaminsky and Sam Dekker, plus guards Jackson and Gasser and reserve Dukan. But this is one of the reasons why Ryan redshirts players and arranges his roster the way he does – so there are no complete rebuilding seasons. With Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig, he has two excellent building blocks to maintain competitiveness.

The only active coach with a comparable philosophy – both in recruiting and style of play – is Virginia's Tony Bennett. But Bennett hasn't yet gotten his program to Ryan's level – he hasn't made a Final Four or a regional final as a head coach. Until those things happen, Bo Ryan is the game's most successful throwback coach.

And when he's gone, college basketball may well be at the end of an era.