When I was a student at the University of Wisconsin, Bo Ryan was the assistant basketball coach. To say the Badgers were miserable was like saying Wisconsin winters were cold. In Ryan's eight years (no, I wasn't there that long) under head coaches Bill Cofield and Steve Yoder, the Badgers were 79-141. They were fodder for just about every other team in the Big Ten, often including Northwestern.
After that, I headed south and lost track of Ryan, who went on to be a successful coach at the lesser-known schools in the UW system, including Wisconsin-Plattville, where he won four Division III titles, and then UW-Milwaukee, where he coached for two seasons.
When Wisconsin hired Ryan as head coach in 2001, it seemed a case of misguided loyalty. Sure, Ryan had ties to the school, but why try and recapture past ignominy?
Ryan, of course, quickly proved his doubters wrong, winning a share of the Big Ten title in his first season. In his 13 seasons as head coach, Wisconsin has been to 13 consecutive NCAA Tournaments, six Sweet 16s and a now a Final Four. He's clearly among the best coaches in the game.
When the Badgers played in Jacksonville in the first two rounds of the 2010 NCAA Tournament, I was introduced to Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez. Though it was Alvarez's predecessor, Pat Richter, who hired Ryan, I sheepishly confessed to the AD how at the time I thought the hiring of Ryan smacked of poor judgment.
"His years as an assistant at Wisconsin, they were terrible,'' I said.
Alvarez listened and smiled. He responded that Richter probably had some of those same doubts, that you never know for sure, and that it couldn't have worked out any better for UW.
It also proved what readers already know — that sports editors are sometimes wrong, too. Usually, however, not this wrong.