UWGB men’s basketball coach Will Ryan prepares to lead the Division I program
GREEN BAY – Last week was one of the craziest days of Will Ryan’s coaching career, if not his life.
That it ended with his hiring as the next University of Wisconsin-Green Bay men’s basketball coach was well worth it.
The process went so quickly that it seemed like the UWGB administration and Ryan were speed dating.
It all started on Wednesday, when the Wheeling University coach had his first phone interview the same day he celebrated his 14th wedding anniversary with his wife, Emily, who was his rock and loyal sidekick during the process.
Ryan met the UWGB players on Thursday in a video chat, which wasn’t as pleasant as engaging face-to-face but was necessary during a pandemic.
From the moment the sun rose until the time it went down on Friday it was busy with phone calls and talks with UWGB athletic director Charles Guthrie and UWGB Chancellor , Michael Alexander.
By the time Saturday arrived, they were negotiating the terms of his contract.
“I didn’t have time to absorb it all and absorb it all,” Ryan said. “But it was really exciting. Not a lot of sleep, but it’s just a great experience so far.
One of the first calls he made after getting the job was to his father, Bo Ryan, a former University of Wisconsin coach and a member of the College Basketball Hall of Famer.
He joked that the only thing his dad told him was to make sure he joined a country club. He wants to play golf when he comes to visit his oldest son.
“If you’ve been listening to his press conferences, yeah that’s where I get it from where I can get mad,” Ryan said. “He’s pretty short with his praise. It’s a bit like “Hey, great job. You’re going to do well. Your mom and I love and support you.”
“He’s always trying to train me, and that’s obviously in his nature. It’s always ‘Prepare for this’. Think about it, with the staff, the list and the contractual things. Just because he’s a pro, he’s been doing it for so many years. He always tries to give me advice on these things.
One hope in hiring Ryan is that he will help reinvigorate Phoenix’s fan base and possibly put more into seats than the 1,800 who averaged out at games last season.
It also can’t hurt that his roots in Wisconsin remain strong, as evidenced by all the congratulatory messages he has received from people across the state who have crossed paths with him.
He grew up in Platteville, played college basketball at UW-Platteville and UW-Milwaukee, was a volunteer assistant in Wisconsin and helped form the Wisconsin Swing AAU team.
Emily, who is from Fox Valley, is also excited to be closer to home. Her parents live in Sherwood and her sister is a teacher in the Menasha School District.
Ryan embraces the expectations that might be placed on him because of who his father is and where he was raised.
“I’ve always handled it,” he says. “My grandfather is William Ryan Sr., my father is junior and I am III. I have always adopted him because, my father, I learned so much from him as a coach. Growing up in its gyms, workouts, and games, I learned a ton and use it all in my teachings now.
“For me, it helps more than it gets in the way. Now that he’s retired, he can sit back and relax. He can speak well of me, I hope.
Father and son also have at least one other thing in common – the offensive swing, which was developed by Bo and used throughout his career.
The offense consists of testing the defense, going from side to side and vice versa while making a good attempt to shoot for an even better one.
He will be seen at UWGB during the Ryan Era.
“I put the swing on with our Wheeling team, swing attack is very dear to me,” said Ryan. “It’s an equal opportunity offense, and no matter what your staff is, you can run it with anyone. There are so many different wrinkles that you can use.
“I have other movement infractions that I’ve incorporated here at Wheeling, so it’s not 100% of the time. I’ll have to cross that bridge when we get there, in terms of what we have in terms of staff, and if it’s working. I think I can venture to say that, yes, a certain swing will be used. But I’ll use other stuff as well.
Ryan has a lot to do in a short period of time. He needs to assemble a staff of assistant coaches, speak with potential returning players and start determining if he wants to use the multiple purses that have recently become available due to transfers.
This is exactly what he faced less than a year ago when he was hired at Wheeling on July 1 and had five players in his roster.
He cooked up a team that finished fifth in the 12-team Mountain East conference despite being picked to finish last.
His first job as a head coach at the DII level saw him win his first DI concert after previously serving as an assistant at Ohio University and North Dakota State.
Ryan plans to cast a net wide to see which players are available, checking out the NCAA transfer portal and its contacts.
“It’s oddly similar to last year around this time,” Ryan said. “Five guys on the list right now in both places. Just a ton of broken movies, everyone has a flagship movie. It may grab your attention, and then you need to get a full game movie.
“You try to dissect this as best you can and trust their coaches and the people in their area to give you good information about the kid. Will he mind his business on and off the pitch? Is he a good citizen? Is he coachable? All of these things, because that’s how you build a program.
COVID-19 has made the offseason difficult, and while there is hope to reunite the Phoenix sooner rather than later, Ryan is prepared for anything that might happen as he prepares for his debut.
“I’m going to do my part in this regard to help try to build the staff and make sure we have a quality competitive team for next year,” he said. “I know the plan is to come back to campus on July 1 with practice sessions. It will be there before you know it, but there is a lot of work to be done during this time. “
Ryan was also asked if he could try to use his connections to get the Badgers to play Green Bay again. It would certainly be a way of increasing the average attendance.
A previous 10-year contract between Wisconsin and the UWGB called for eight games in Madison and two in Green Bay. When that deal expired in 2013, Wisconsin was no longer willing to play games in Green Bay.
This led to a six-year contract in August 2015 that saw the teams meet every other season at the Kohl Center.
“I will definitely give it a try,” Ryan said. “I’m going to swing with Coach (Greg) Gard to try to get there. He might be laughing at me, but I’m definitely going to shy away from him.