Bo Ryan, veteran coach who had never made it to the Final Four despite a stellar career at Wisconson, finally pulled it off. Thanks to outstanding play by Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin outlasted Arizona in overtime, winning 64-63.
Ryan took over as head coach in Wisconsin in 2001 after winning four national championships at small college Wisconsin-Platteville. The following is a transcript of his post-game interview.
Ryan: Well, thank you. I’m extremely proud. It’s always about the players and what they went through to get to this point and to be able to feel the way they do now. We hope it continues, but we also know how life can be. So it should always be about the players, but I’m going to get one comment in. Today would have been my dad’s 90th birthday. I just thought I’d throw that in.
Q. So what’s that mean to you to do it on your dad’s birthday?
COACH RYAN: Well, he was always about the kids that he helped mentor growing up, and you know, that’s why I do it. We talked about this before when people were asking questions, including yourself, about the relationship, to be able to see the faces of these guys, to see the genuine excitement. I can remember some of the great teams that he had of kids and their first championships and how they acted and just the joy. These guys have had some others, but that’s all I wanted to see. Then to see the fans, to see everybody so proud. I hope nothing happens on State Street tonight because these guys have on their cell phones some unbelievable pictures. Everybody be safe out there, and hopefully we still have a lot more in us.
Q. Coach Ryan, at what point did you think that this could be the team that could take you to the Final Four?
COACH RYAN: Believe it or not, there were some things that happened on our trip to Canada. We went 4?1, but I saw some things. We lost our whole front line at graduation. We had to replace the front line and the guard play was solidified by the addition of Josh Gasser coming back from his surgery. I think Josh’s work ethic to the rehabilitation was really key, plus Ben had somebody to talk to then as long as Josh was around. So Ben has a lot of energy, so he and Josh share a lot of energy.
But I just thought our freshmen, Nigel Hayes did some things where I just kind of knew he’s going to help us, and Bronson and the other freshmen, Vitto and Jordan and the other guys, Riley. They’re not that far behind in helping us, and the walk?on, Aaron. I just felt something good.
But the one thing I wasn’t going to do is I was a lot tougher on this group than I was on last year’s group. I just wasn’t going to accept them not understanding that they could be pretty good.
Q. So, did you feel like it took an earthquake to get you to the Final Four?
COACH RYAN: Wow, I don’t know if I mentioned this to this group, but I did say to Craig Sager at halftime that after the earthquake last night, you never know when it’s your last game coaching or what’s going to happen, so what I wanted to do was make sure that I got my game’s worth of being involved early. I think I was overly involved early because I have an opinion, everybody else has an opinion. When you express your opinion, you need to do it maybe in a better way.
So I just was wound up for a lot of reasons, but mainly because you don’t get these opportunities very often. To be in that position, there are things that I thought I saw that might have been imaginary. But you know how that can work on your mind. So once we settled in, I thought our guys did a great job of, okay, now let’s just play. We weren’t getting to the line. We weren’t doing some things that are very characteristic of us. Then by the time we closed the half out, we started to get back to what we do.
Q. Can you talk about the change that you’ve seen in Frank this season? His numbers have really increased since last year. What’s been really?? what’s sparked this for him?
COACH RYAN: Well, he’s continued to work hard in the weight room. He’s continued to work on his conditioning and his diet. You know, our guys are really into following the nutritional guides that have been given to him. So his stamina has increased and he’s growing into his body, mentally, physically, socially. They tell me he’s funnier that he used to be, and his eyes are more wide open now. Last year I thought at times his eyes were closed, then I realized that’s just his eyes. If you see him sitting sometimes you think, oh, look, Frank’s asleep. He’s not asleep. But he’s got that sleepy look. But he’s matured in every aspect because he’s worked hard.
Q. Does he still talk to himself?
COACH RYAN: Not as much. He’s not as hard on himself as he used to be.
Q. What was the discussion as you’re waiting for the referees to have this long, never?ending??
COACH RYAN: Good question. If it’s going to be that long, we’re not about getting the ball. So I didn’t want to have to use a timeout, but we did have a possibility. But as long as it took them, we said okay. If it’s their ball, here’s what we’re going to do. Frank does this. You protect the rim.
So as soon as they called it, did you see how quickly they wanted to get the ball to the guy on the sideline? And our guys went right to their spots, did what they were supposed to do, forced a tough angle for the young man to get his shot off. Mainly we spent most of it knowing that it wasn’t going to be our ball.
Q. Because it took so long?
COACH RYAN: Yeah, but yet I’ve been given a thousand hits of what people in the country saw. I guess they meant that they thought it was our ball. I didn’t say that. The other people that are hitting my communication means. I only have texting. I don’t have the other.
Q. What happened to your piece of net, and how is it that Ben ended up with the whole net around the neck and not you?
COACH RYAN: That’s the secondary net. That is the net from the other end that the staff and other people get to have a piece of. They’re divvying it up as we speak.
Q. Where’s yours?
COACH RYAN: Patrick Herb has mine. He has mine. One time after a national championship I had the net around my neck, and I ran into the coach of the other team at the hotel, and you know what, I felt about this big. You know, you really don’t want to do that. But I was just so excited. It was honest. Then I see him in the hotel and I have it, and I haven’t done it since.
Q. You mentioned or referred to the Twitter universe, and a lot of people were on people talking about maybe bad calls that were going against you. Was there ever a point where you felt like this just wasn’t going to be your night even though it seemed that??
COACH RYAN: Those first ten minutes I was very, very internally there was a lot of gnashing going on. There was a lot of?? then again, sometimes you can want it too much for your team. I’m still the same guy that I was three hours ago before this game started and all that and all this about a coach has to do this or a coach has to do that. I chuckle. We are who we are as professionals. We’re teachers. We’re coaches.
Q. The players expressed how happy they are by this win. How long are you going to let them be happy before they have to start thinking about next Saturday’s game?
COACH RYAN: I think they’ll handle it. Few of them have played in state championship games in high school, and in college they’ve had a chance to be in some NCAA tournaments. They know how quickly things can change. They’re realists in life. They won’t be?? there is no fool’s gold running around here, not while I’m around. They’ll be fine. The rest is the most important thing. Sometimes guys get so excited they don’t sleep. Like tonight, if they don’t get to bed at a reasonable time, family is here, all of that, all of our energy and our rest habits and our sleep habits need to stay in tune with each other. So hopefully we won’t forget that. Also, nutritionally we have to make sure we’re taking care of our bodies.
Q. Where were you in the hotel during the earthquake?
COACH RYAN: Nineteenth floor of the hotel, because of the rollers these tall buildings are on now, it swayed for another minute, two minutes because of the way they engineer it. Most of my players at Platteville, they were engineers, and I’ll call them and say, how did they do this? How did they put a building on rollers? Does anybody here know? No, you’re journalists. You’re sports writers. I know. Anyhow, it was interesting.