New Phoenix coach Will Ryan has supporters, including Dad

Published: Jun. 8, 2020 at 9:54 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

The Green Bay Phoenix are expected to introduce new men’s basketball head coach Will Ryan later this week. But his supporters were in full voice on Monday, the day after Ryan was officially hired.

Most notable his Hall of Fame father Bo Ryan, the former coach at UW-Platteville, UW-Milwaukee, and of course, the University of Wisconsin. Appearing on the Wilde & Tausch radio show on ESPN Milwaukee Monday morning, the elder Ryan recalled he faced a similar situation when he took over in Milwaukee. The Panthers were a downtrodden program with little following. His 41-year old son must re-energize a Phoenix fan base that has dwindled the last several years, despite winning teams.

“There are a lot of ways that you can stir interest,” Ryan said Monday. “But when you get them into the arena they need to see guys playing hard, guys playing smart, trying to do things the right way. People buy into that. Green Bay is the kind of community that if they see a team diving for loose balls, and playing really tough D, and moving the ball, and being unselfish…I think Green Bay is the kind of area that would welcome that.”

Will Ryan will not necessarily try and play exactly like his father. Bo’s famous swing offense is part of his philosophy. Former Badger and Appleton West product Brian Butch played for Wisconsin when Will Ryan was Director of Basketball Operations under his father. Butch, now an analyst for the Big Ten Network, believes the Phoenix won’t be a carbon copy of the Badgers. But they will play differently than they did under Linc Darner, who believed in having as many offensive possessions as possible.

“I would expect Will's team to play just a little bit more up tempo just based on who UWGB has on their roster right now,” Butch told WBAY on Monday. “They want to get up and running. Now, the one thing UWGB fans should be excited about is I expect them to play a lot of defense first. ‘If you get stops fellas, we will run all you want to. But if you don't get stops, we not running.’ I think that is probably going to be the message very early on that Will will say." Added Bo Ryan: “So what you'll see hopefully, is that they take good shots no matter what they are running. They get good position, they get good movement, they get unselfish teammates, they move the ball from side to side, they make the defense work. There are some absolutes in basketball that if you stick to them, it gives you a pretty good chance to complete night in, night out.”

Will Ryan has just one year of head coaching experience, and that came last season at Wheeling University, a Division II school in West Virginia. But he has plenty of Division 1 experience, serving under his dad at Wisconsin, and then spending 12 years as an assistant under Saul Phillips at North Dakota State and Ohio University. NDSU went to the NCAA Tournament twice under Phillips, and Ryan was a big part of that.

“His biggest strengths are identifying talent and developing that talent; he did that for me for 12 years,” Phillips told WBAY on Monday. “If you have a guy that can do that for you, you are going to win some games. And I was certainly fortunate enough to have Will find me literally kids that had no other division 1 offers, and 4 years later they're the player of the year in the league, actually on 3 separate occasions, that he was directly involved with.”

Phillips, who like Ryan is a Wisconsin native, believes success will come quickly for his former assistant. “It is a perfect fit. He will be a terrific fit in the community. He is a Wisconsin guy with a ton of connections; not only did he play in the state of Wisconsin both high school and collegiately, he also started an AAU program in the state of Wisconsin back when he was just starting out. So right time, right guy.”