Wednesday, October 1, 2014
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Bo Ryan's Chester toughness rubs off on Badgers

Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan celebrates after cutting down the net after a regional final NCAA college basketball tournament game against Arizona, Saturday, March 29, 2014, in Anaheim, Calif. Wisconsin won 64-63 in overtime. (Jae C. Hong/AP)
Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan celebrates after cutting down the net after a regional final NCAA college basketball tournament game against Arizona, Saturday, March 29, 2014, in Anaheim, Calif. Wisconsin won 64-63 in overtime. (Jae C. Hong/AP)
Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan celebrates after cutting down the net after a regional final NCAA college basketball tournament game against Arizona, Saturday, March 29, 2014, in Anaheim, Calif. Wisconsin won 64-63 in overtime. (Jae C. Hong/AP) Gallery: Bo Ryan's Chester toughness rubs off on Badgers

MILWAUKEE - The stops on Bo Ryan's coaching resumé sound like a road trip across southern Wisconsin, from Platteville to Milwaukee to Madison. He has been pacing sidelines for so long in this state, it's hard to imagine Ryan being anywhere but the Midwest.

His roots, though, run deep in the East.

The Badgers under Ryan are inextricably linked to the sidewalks and basketball courts of Chester, where the 66-year-old Ryan grew up and starred as a point guard in high school. Those ties are especially prominent in Wisconsin's run to the Final Four after the death of Ryan's father, Butch, a longtime youth baseball and basketball coach who died last summer.

"He was always about the kids that he helped mentor growing up, and you know, that's why I do it," Ryan said after Wisconsin beat Arizona, 64-63, in overtime to advance to a Final Four matchup with Kentucky on Saturday.

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  • "Today would have been my dad's 90th birthday," Ryan said after the win over the Wildcats.

    Ryan once said growing up on the streets of Chester steeled him in life. The Ryan family lived in a rowhouse; the elder Ryan, a decorated World War II veteran, worked as a pipe fitter.

    The experiences helped influence how Ryan coaches. His father passed along a tireless work ethic that Ryan has displayed working his way up the coaching ladder. And if you see that reflected in his teams, there's a reason.

    "That mental toughness, don't let anything get past you," Milwaukee assistant Sharif Chambliss said in describing the influence of Ryan's roots. A former player under Ryan, Chambliss grew up in Racine, a small Wisconsin city that reminds him of Chester.

    A 12-point halftime deficit, like the one overcome by Wisconsin against Oregon in the regional semifinals, doesn't seem insurmountable. A 1-5 stretch like the one Wisconsin went through at midyear doesn't mean the season is lost.

    "Getting the most out of each guy - Coach is going to take those guys who are tough and just get the most out of them," Chambliss said.

    Ryan's coaching career started in 1972 at Brookhaven High in Delaware County. He arrived in the Midwest for good in 1976 when he was hired as an assistant at Wisconsin.

    The first head coaching job came at Division III Wisconsin-Platteville, where his highly successful 15-year run began in 1984. Two years at Wisconsin-Milwaukee followed before Ryan got the job at the Wisconsin system's main campus in Madison in 2001.

    While Ryan traded in cheesesteaks for cheeseheads decades ago, he's never stopped talking about Chester.

    "Oh, I've heard every story over the last 21 years. Some of them eight or 10 times," Wisconsin associate head coach Greg Gard said.

    Chester has had tough economic times. But it's also a scholastic basketball power in Pennsylvania, a point of pride likely shared last week by Ryan and a fellow alumnus, Arizona freshman Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.

    Ryan is "very tough-minded. And I think that whole thing in terms of street toughness, the understanding that there's an appreciation for what you have. The willingness to never quit, never give up," Gard said. "He came from a family that had limited resources financially, so you have an appreciation for what it takes; what hard work really is."

     

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