Mar 7, 2016 8:05 PM

Wisconsin removes 'interim' tag, names Greg Gard coach

The Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) From the day he replaced Bo Ryan as the Wisconsin basketball coach, Greg Gard said he would always put his team ahead of any concerns about whether he would be more than an interim place-holder.

No need to speculate any longer.

The university has removed the "interim" tag and named Gard the permanent head coach, rewarding the career assistant for a 13-6 record over a three-month audition and rock-steady influence during a period of upheaval. The announcement came after the Wisconsin Board of Regents approved Gard's contract on Monday night.

Terms were to be disclosed once Gard officially signed the contract, an athletic department official said.

"It's an honor and a privilege to be named the head coach at the University of Wisconsin," Gard said in a statement.

Gard took over following Ryan's abrupt retirement after a game on Dec. 15. Gard, 45, was a veteran assistant under Ryan who emerged as the front-runner after steadying the team following a 1-4 start in Big Ten play. The Badgers went 11-2 from there to climb back into a three-way tie for third place in the league to finish the regular season.

Athletic director Barry Alvarez said he was impressed "Not just from a wins and losses perspective but also in terms of player development and making necessary adjustments. ... 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."

Gard grew up in the small town of Cobb, Wisconsin, which is about an hour's drive west of the Kohl Center. Considered one of the top assistants in the game, Ryan said in his retirement announcement that he had hoped Gard would get the job.

Gard earned the promotion after the Badgers got off to a slow start under his watch, losing each of their first four games in Big Ten play by six points or less.

The Badgers surged back into the Big Ten picture with a seven-game winning streak. Forward Nigel Hayes and guard Bronson Koenig, key contributors in back-to-back Final Four appearances, grew more comfortable with their leadership roles. Gard expanded the rotation and used more freshmen off the bench.

The 11-2 run to finish conference play included victories against ranked opponents Maryland and Iowa on the road, along with Michigan State and Maryland at home.

By late February, Alvarez had apparently seen enough.

In officially posting the job opening on Feb. 25, the school had set an "earliest anticipated start date" of Tuesday for the next coach. That didn't leave much room to conduct a wide search in the middle of the season.

Wisconsin next plays on Thursday as the sixth seed in the Big Ten Tournament against either Nebraska or Rutgers.

The team has "had to go through the gauntlet of the schedule, obviously the transition," Gard said earlier Monday during his regular weekly news conference. "We're excited to see what's coming down the road."


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