Greg Gards Wisconsin Basketball Program · The Badger Herald

When they entered the 2021-22 season, Badgers Men’s Basketball teams had low expectations from basketball experts across the country. A disappointing 2020-21 campaign ended in the worst possible way, with a sound clip released between previously disgruntled senior players and head coach Greg Gard. Because of this, many people were unsure where the current players stood with Gard.

In addition, the Badgers lost five of their best eight-minute winners to either various professional leagues or to the transfer portal. Even though it had only been two seasons since Gard had won the Big Ten Coach of the yearpeople began to question his leadership and ability to coach and recruit for Wisconsin teams in the future.

For Badger fans and Gard, this year’s squad was almost a brand new team, with only three players playing significant minutes the previous season, returning to Wisconsin. But an inexperienced team is a small hurdle for a coach who has gone through what Gard has in his short period as a Wisconsin coach. The way he started his head coaching career for the Badgers is as untraditional as it can get, with Bo Ryan announcing his retirement just 12 games inside the 2015-16 season.

Although he started 1-4 in conference play, Gard was able to coach his team to a huge upset victory over No. 4 in Michigan State at home. The Badgers would go on to end the season by winning 10 of their last 12 games, which included three more wins over ranked teams. It also marked the end of Gard’s time as interim head coach when sporting director Barry Alvarez officially gave him a nod to the head coach at the end of the season.

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His most difficult season, however, was 2019-20, when he and his team handled the tragedy with a car accident that seriously injured assistant coach Howard Moore and killed his wife and daughter. Shortly after, top scorer Kobe King had made the decision to leave the program and enter the transfer portal. In a fight in early February, after strength and fitness coach Erik Helland withdrew after the fallout from his use of a race line, and Brad Davison was suspended for a blatant error against Iowa, the Badgers looked like they were in complete ruin.

In addition to all the issues off the field Gard and his staff dealt with, the team itself sat on a disappointing 13-10 overall and 6-6 in conference play. But the Badger was able to team up and take down No. 14 in Michigan State, where Gard once again outcoached legendary coach Tom Izzo. From there, they would win eight of their last nine matches and conquer their first regular season Big Ten conference title in five years. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic prevented his team from unleashing their true potential in March Madness, but not before Gard would conquer his first Big Ten Coach of the Year, voiced by his colleagues and media.

His subsequent season, 2020-21, was a downturn and ended with not only a leaked sound of his seniors expressing their frustrations over him, but also an anonymous source had claimed that an assistant coach “plans” to overthrow him as head coach. Although from the perspective of the casual fan, it had seemed like a daunting task to lead his team to success this season, it was really much simpler for him than what he had already been through until then.

Gard commented prior to the start of the season on how he, even though this was a young and inexperienced team, liked the energy they brought with them and how everyone was committed to learning and growing together as a team. Although the Badger got into the bottom half of pretty much every Big Ten preseason ranking, they did not let that deter them from succeeding early.

The team got off to a red-hot start and won eight of their first nine games of the season. Sophomore phenomenon Johnny Davis quickly established itself as the new face of the Badgers offensive, averaging 20.5 PPG over that period, including a huge 30-point performance in a showdown against No. 12 Houston at the Maui invitational game. But what was much more comforting to Gard and Badger fans was that the team only had an average turnover of 8.5 in these nine games, along with the defense only averaging just over 59 points per game. fight for opposing offenses, something that had become an integral part of Wisconsin basketball since the days of Bo Ryan.

As the season progressed, this young, relatively inexperienced Wisconsin basketball team continued to demonstrate the cohesion and serenity of a team that had been together for years. Freshman point guard Chucky Hepburn was a welcome surprise as he played with the balance as an experienced veteran throughout the season. As of February, he had only six turnovers in five away games. Not only that, but he was also instrumental in the end of the matches, where his biggest moment of the season was a final second three against Purdue in a match between top-ten ranked teams.

His confidence, along with Gard’s coaching, was a big reason why the Badgers were an NCAA best 15-2 in games settled with six points or less.

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The Badgers would end the season with a 25-8 clip, along with a Gard team best 15-5 record in conference play. Once again, Gard would be named Big Ten Coach of the Year by his peers and media – for the second time in just three years. He receives constant praise from his assistant coaches and has responded to any doubts and criticisms by winning matches year after year, even with constant hardships and distractions.

Although he has yet to have a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, Gard has shown great resilience as a coach and has truly been a microcosm of what it means to be a Badger. As Davis enters the NBA Draft and Davison officially moves on from his time as a player, Gard will once again look to surprise everyone in the upcoming season and continue to add his impressive resume as Badgers’ head coach.

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