MURRELL COLUMN: Some mid-season departures are exercises in loyalty

Published 12:00 pm Thursday, December 17, 2015

I went to bed Tuesday night and checked my phone for the latest news. The alert showed on top of my screen: “Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan announces his retirement.”

He pulled the plug … just like that.

If there ever was a time for Ryan, who said going into this season this would be his last, to retire, Dec. 15 was it.

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The Badgers are 7-5. Eleven freshmen and sophomores are on the roster. There are no seniors. Following up a national runner-up finish with just another trip to the NCAA tournament is nearly impossible.

Yeah, he saw all the signs to help him make his decision. They’re also the signs of a coach bailing on his team.

But Ryan wasn’t bailing. He worked too hard to do that.

He went out on his own terms. He earned the right to. No one, not even Dick Bennett, took Wisconsin basketball to the heights it has reached.

It’s not like Ryan didn’t want to finish a season he started, which is still a standard of good sportsmanship we grown folks like to pass on to the younger generation.

He wanted to leave in April, right after Duke beat Wisconsin in the NCAA final. Barry Alvarez, the Badgers’ athletic director and former head football coach, asked him to table the matter for a while, which Ryan said he appreciated. All this time, though, Ryan wanted to make sure Greg Gard, his loyal top assistant, got the chance to take over.

If Ryan left in April, he would leave the position in the hands of non-basketball experts who run the university. Gard might be promoted, and he might not.

The grind of going through one more season after really feeling like it’s time would be hard on a 68-year-old man. The mental and physical aspects of building a young team into a consistent competitor are tested.

It’s times like these when age is more than a number, although we’d rather not give that a thought.

Sometimes, it isn’t about age. It’s about loyalty.

Andre Boutte knows that pretty well.

Currently the Port Arthur Independent School District’s athletic director, Boutte had won 562 out of 680 games (82.6 percent) in 22 seasons when he made the decision to resign the helm of Beaumont Ozen boys basketball for his current gig. That was in December 2008.

“My program was well established,” he told me in August, when he was named to the Texas High School Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2016. “It was an opportunity to show my loyalty to my current staff that was there. I thought that would be a perfect example to show my former school district that these people are capable of carrying on the tradition.”

Marcus Saveat has not disappointed. His 2014-15 Ozen Panthers finished second in 5A last season, and his current team is ranked eighth in the classification.

Not many high school programs can lay claim to only having two head coaches in its entire history. (Ozen began classes in 1997.)

Can’t you just see what Bo Ryan did through the lens of a local man?

Loyalty may not have been the only factor in Ryan’s decision, but it outweighs everything else for the Badgers. And, in the end, the most loyal man to Ryan, and the team he now gets to lead, came out winners.

So are the Panthers.


I.C. Murrell can be reached at 721-2435 or On Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews.


About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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