MARCH COULD BRING THREE MAJOR UW COACHING DECISIONS

The month of March could be a very busy (and critical ) time for the University of Wisconsin Athletic Director Barry Alvarez.

He may have three major decisions to make regarding the head coaching positions for UW Men’s Basketball, Women’s Basketball and Men’s Hockey.
All three of those sports play their home games at the Kohl Center and are among the most high profile programs in the UW Athletic Department.

It’s possible both basketball teams and the men’s hockey teams will have new coaches next season, which most likely would be a first at Wisconsin.

One way or another, men’s basketball will have a new coach following the surprise retirement of Bo Ryan on December 15. The question is whether the “Interim” tag will be taken off of Greg Gard’s title or if Alvarez decides to, as they say. move in another direction. Wisconsin’s recent wins over nationally ranked Michigan State and Indiana should help Gard, who has a 7-4 record since replacing Ryan. From my perspective, Gard more than held his own in Wisconsin’s wins against Tom Izzo of Michigan State, Tom Crean of Indiana and Thad Motta of Ohio State. The Badgers are currently on a five game winning streak.

Men’s hockey and women’s basketball could be even more interesting since neither coach is “interim,” but both programs have struggled in recent years. Attendance for both at the Kohl Center has dropped significantly. That is a bigger problem for men’s hockey because after football and men’s basketball, it is the third largest revenue raiser for the Athletic Department.

Neither of the contracts of hockey coach Mike Eaves or women’s basketball coach Bobbie Kelsey were extended last year by the UW Athletic Board – which is not a good sign for either coach.

The hockey team was 4-26-5 last season and is currently 6-12-6 this season – not good numbers for a program that has won six National Championships.

The women’s basketball team has also struggled under Kelsey. It is currently 6-15 and is again near the bottom of the Big Ten standings. Kelsey’s team finished 9-20 last season and that followed a 10-19 record…also not coach-saving numbers.

It’s hard to predict, with a number of games still to play, but men’s hockey and women’s basketball are certainly not trending in the right direction.

After back-to-back Final Fours, men’s basketball might be the most difficult decision for Alvarez – and at the moment, at least, Gard has his team trending in the direction that could give him the job next season.

John Finkler

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