Madison, Wis. — Greg Gard has been the head coach of the Wisconsin basketball program since Bo Ryan stepped down during the 2015-16 season and has since won two Big Ten titles + Coach of the Year awards during his tenure.
Still, his job security has continually been a hot topic of discussion, and his NIT appearance this past March didn’t do anything to help his cause.
Although Gard has led the Badgers to six NCAA Tournament appearances in his eight seasons as head coach, the team has yet to advance past the Sweet Sixteen in any of those appearances (damn you, Chris Chiozza). In addition, UW hasn’t appeared in the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament since Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig were still donning the cardinal and white–and Badgers fans understandably want better on that front.
With the Wisconsin basketball offseason well underway, Gard is under significant pressure to right the ship and take the Badgers on a deep run in the NCAA Tournament to prove to the fanbase and Chris McIntosh (his opinion matters) that he is the right man for the job.
Addressing the Greg Gard Can’t Recruit Narrative
Greg Gard has faced plenty of criticism for his recruiting and player development in recent years, although contextually, I’m not sure it’s entirely warranted.
According to 247Sports, coach Gard has brought in 10 of the program’s top 25 recruits in school history. It’s also worth acknowledging that he played a hand in recruiting plenty of others on that list when he was an assistant. So it’s not as though Wisconsin suddenly can’t recruit because of him. UW just isn’t landing the A-list players fans are expecting.
The Badgers have struggled to bring in top-tier recruits partly because of the system he runs, which is a discussion for another day on whether or not that might need to change for the program to evolve. But it’s part of the equation.
Additionally, Gard is considered a top-tier talent evaluator on a national scale. However, he’s had some notable misses on the recruiting trail and failed to replace outgoing transfers with viable replacements through the portal, leaving Wisconsin basketball with questionable depth. So questionable roster construction is a valid criticism that needs correcting.
Although it’s a small and more recent sample size, UW landed St. John’s transfer AJ Storr, a former top 100 wing with three years of eligibility in the transfer portal, and also got a commitment from 2024 four-star point guard Daniel Freitag. So If you’re going to chastise him for his shortcomings, you must at least be willing to acknowledge when he knocks it out of the park.
Consistency will be critical in Coach Gard’s ability to change this narrative and silence his haters; that much I understand. But he’s been far more aggressive and involved in the recruiting process that’s landed the program some major talents this offseason. That’s a step in the right direction.
Final Thoughts on Greg Gard, Wisconsin Basketball Program
Despite the challenges he’s faced during his career, Greg Gard has always been able to bounce back from adversity and maintain the support of the athletic department. However, the pressure will be on him this season to deliver results and show that he can take the Badgers to the next level.
Wisconsin basketball returns their starting five from last season, adds a dynamic wing-like AJ Storr, and welcomes a talented 2023 recruiting class featuring four-star center Gus Yalden and forward Nolan Winter + combo guard John Blackwell.
So the expectation is to return to the NCAA Tournament and compete for a Big Ten title.
If Gard can lead the Badgers to a successful season (top-four finish in the B1G) and a run in the NCAA Tournament, he should be able to silence his critics and secure his job for the foreseeable future. However, if the Badgers underperform again and fail to make the NCAA Tournament or exit early (to me, this alone wouldn’t be the final straw), Gard’s job could be in serious jeopardy.
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