Today Is Coach Bo Ryan’s 71st Birthday. Here’s Why He’s A Basketball Legend

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David Hookstead Smoke Room Editor-in-Chief
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Today, December 20, is former Wisconsin basketball coach Bo Ryan’s 71st birthday.

There are few people in the world of sports who I respect more, hold in higher admiration, have more praise for and think are more talented than Bo Ryan.

Growing up as a boy in Wisconsin, Coach Ryan was a God in the sports world. Young men dreamed about wearing the red and white as they played basketball at the University of Wisconsin. High school programs around the state tried to emulate Ryan’s style with the Badgers, and he was without question the most influential basketball mind in the state.


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Bo Ryan took a Wisconsin basketball program that hadn’t known a ton of success before him and brought it to new heights.

He took my beloved Badgers to two Final Fours, a heartbreaking national championship loss to Duke my final year of college, seven Big Ten championships, he never missed the tournament and he won 364 games for Wisconsin.

Most importantly, he did it the right way. He took players mostly overlooked by other major programs, built them up, refined their games and then unleashed them on all the schools that wouldn’t give them the time of day coming out of high school.

He took three and two-star recruits and routinely beat teams loaded with NBA talent. Who could ever forget when he beat an undefeated Kentucky team in the Final Four that was stacked with future NBA stars?

Or, who could ever forget Coach Ryan’s stories about his late father? His father never got to live to see the Badgers make the Final Four under his son’s leadership, but the legendary Wisconsin coach made sure the rest of the nation knew of the impact his dad had on his life.

Of course, nothing gets to last forever. I’ll never forget where I was when I Bo Ryan announced his abrupt and unexpected retirement.

I was sitting in my bedroom as I watched in complete silence as Ryan told the world his days as the Badgers coach were over. It felt like my heart had been ripped out. The largest fixture in Wisconsin sports was no more. (RELATED: Wisconsin Coach Bo Ryan Shocks College Basketball By Abruptly Retiring [VIDEO])

There might never be another Wisconsin coach in my lifetime that accomplishes as much for the program as Bo Ryan did. He made us a Big Ten powerhouse program that is always in the hunt for a championship.

He took kids nobody else wanted and made them feared across the country, and he made a whole state proud in the process.


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Thanks for the memories and happy birthday, Coach Ryan.

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