After the Wisconsin Badgers lost to the Duke Blue Devils for the NCAA national championship this past spring, things haven't looked too good overall for the future of the program. Center/forward Frank Kaminsky closed out his college eligibility with the team and is now in the NBA, junior forward Sam Dekker declared early and senior guard Traevon Jackson is also out of eligibility. And last but certainly not least, Badgers head coach Bo Ryan announced that the 2015-2016 season would be his last season as a head coach.
There are three critical questions that will define the near future for the Badgers. And all of them center around their current head coach.
1.) Is There Any Chance Ryan Comes Back To Coaching?
Even though Ryan announced that he will be retiring earlier in the year, everyone knows that anytime a player/coach announces retirement, everyone will tend to believe it when they see it. Ryan, who has coached the Badgers since the 1999-2000 season, is 67 years old and he may be at that point where he is looking to move on to bigger things for himself and relax with his family.
"I will know in the next few months now that I've stepped back into it after vacation,'' Ryan noted via ESPN.com in August. "The reason I did that with Barry [was so he would know my intentions. Barry went through the same thing when he stopped coaching and went to the AD.''
Ryan could very well follow his original plan and leave the game after the 2015-2016 season, giving himself a year off to refresh himself. The first year retirement for anyone involved in sports is always the critical one because sometimes they might get the itch to come back to do what they have known their entire life.
Ryan is one of the lucky ones because he has an option to come back as he is very respected in the Badgers community. Most people are usually forced out of the game.
2.) Are The Badgers Established Enough As A Basketball Program To Continue To Land Quality Recruits?
The next couple of years will tell a lot about how strong the Badgers are in the basketball landscape with immediate changes unfolding. Everyone is going to figure out if all the hard work the basketball program has done over the last 16 years has had it's benefits. Will the school be able to sell itself? Or will the school be living under the shadow of Ryan when he leaves?
Since 1999, the Badgers have been to the NCAA tournament 14 times with a 25-14 record, won the Big Ten regular season title four times and won the Big Ten conference tournament three times. Not to mention the team has made two Final Four appearances in that time frame. Is that enough to sway recruits? Everyone will find out soon enough.
It's an interesting case because the Badgers are not a blue blood in any way shape or form, very few schools are. But if the Badgers had won the national championship last season, it would have gone a long way to solidifying their status among the big boys in the basketball landscape.
3.) Will The Badgers Style Of Recruiting Change?
Ryan has made no secret about how he feels when it comes to "one and done" players. Ryan has always tended to focus on recruiting players who have the commitment to stay at the school for four years as opposed to just staying one year and opting to go to the NBA Draft. It's a tough box for schools to put themselves in, but the Badgers have been impressive in that regard by buying into what they believe in.
However, if and when Ryan leaves, the next head coach who comes in might have to have a change in philosophy. In order to stay relevant in this day and age, every school has to keep their options open from communicating to one and done caliber players to four year players. Either adapt or eventually get left behind.
In this current landscape of the Big Ten, the competition is getting tougher than it has ever been. To be the best and stay there the Bagders can't be closed minded in recruiting for much longer, especially if the development of their recruits suffers when Ryan departs.
The Badgers have the right foundation and the right people to make sure the program stays near the top of the Big Ten in the future. It's just a matter of if they want stick to the old school ways of doing business or if they want to enter the current climate in recruiting as Ryan moves on in the near future.