Videos by OutKick
Has Greg Gard’s time at Wisconsin come to an end?
The Badgers lost 65-57 Wednesday night in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament to Ohio State, and it’s all but guaranteed at this point Wisconsin won’t play in the tournament. As a Wisconsin man, I sincerely hope the team declines an NIT invite. The program should never accept playing in that joke backup tournament.
While fans debate that issue, there’s one much bigger problem at hand:
Is it time for AD Chris McIntosh to fire Greg Gard?
Is Greg Gard’s tenure with the Badgers over?
Just recently, McIntosh claimed Gard’s future wasn’t in doubt, but that was before Wisconsin was humiliated in the B1G tournament as an 11-seed.
If there’s one thing Wisconsin fans have come to learn about Chris McIntosh, it’s that expectations are high. When they’re not met, you’re done.
He fired Paul Chryst five games into this past football season and just fired men’s hockey coach Tony Granato all in his first year. The only major coach left is Gard. If he sees McIntosh’s name pop up on caller ID this morning, I’d recommend not answering it.
What do the numbers say?
However, are fans being too emotional or is the outrage justified? The truth is it’s a mix. He’s 161-92 as the head coach of the Badgers. That’s not great, but it could be much worse. The biggest plus for him is the fact Wisconsin has won a pair of regular season championships under his watch, both in the past four seasons. However, that’s where the good news ends.
The Badgers haven’t advanced to the Sweet 16 since his first full season with the program as head coach back in 2017. That was a very different world, and it’s now 2017.
Wisconsin has also failed to win at least 20 games in three of his seasons as head coach. That’s simply something fans will never accept. Ever since Bo Ryan – a hero in the state – 20 wins in the bare minimum the Badgers must get.
The Badgers just simply aren’t the powerhouse we once were. Similar to the football program, fans are watching it slowly slip away, and it’s indefensible at this point.
For that reason, McIntosh has to give serious consideration to firing Greg Gard. That’s not to say he will. It’s probably 50/50, but if he isn’t fired, his seat will start scorching hot next season.
Who could replace Greg Gard?
There are two names I’m going to throw out that I think are likely options, one that is likely not an option anymore and one who just won’t come. Let’s start with the last two.
There’s been a belief for at least a year among fans and people Madison Nate Oats could be brought in to replace Greg Gard. He’s a Wisconsin native, attended school at the University of Wisconsin and spent time coaching at D.III powerhouse UW-Whitewater. His ties to the state run deep and it’d be a homecoming. However, after all the drama with Brandon Miller and Oats’ failure to properly handle it, there’s no shot the people who matter in Madison ever sign off on Oats. You can go ahead and scratch him off the list. For different reasons, Tony Bennett can also be left off the list. At this point, there’s next to no chance he leaves Virginia. Would love to happen. Not going to happen.
That leaves two names: John Beilein and Danny Sprinkle.
Could Beilein be the obvious choice?
Let’s start with Beilein. The former Michigan coach hasn’t coached college basketball since the 2018-2019 season and he had a infamously bad stint in the NBA with the Cleveland Cavaliers. However, there’s no question he’s a great coach. His record in Ann Arbor was 278-150 and he was the national title runner-up twice. Beilein dominated Big Ten basketball for years, and is currently just an advisor for the Pistons.
Wisconsin would, once again, give him the chance to dominate the B1G. The only knock against him is that he’s 70. How many years would John Beilein have in him? Probably not a ton. I spoke with a former D1 coach with more than a decade on the bench, and he believes if Greg Gard is fired, Beilein will be the first call. I agree, but I’m not sure it’s overly realistic.
What about a younger option to replace Greg Gard?
If age is an issue, allow me to bring Danny Sprinkle into the conversation. The 46-year-old Montana State head coach is 52-17 over the past two seasons and headed to his straight second NCAA tournament.
Sprinkle has turned the Bobcats into a small school powerhouse in a shockingly short period of time. Montana State is a proud program but had fallen on very hard times over the past couple decades. Since the 2003-04 season prior to Sprinkle’s arrival, MSU finished above .500 just twice.
Sprinkle in four years has never finished below .516 (his first year) and has won a ton of games. The Bobcats went from being a Big Sky afterthought to the most dominant force in the conference.
I used to actually work within the Montana State basketball department, and I can tell you from firsthand experience how dysfunctional it was at one point. I enjoyed my time there, but it wasn’t a well-run program. That’s just a fact. That’s no longer the case. Sprinkle has turned Montana State into a small school that has to be feared.
Now, will Wisconsin fire Greg Gard? That remains to be seen, but if it happens, John Beilein and Danny Sprinkle should be the first two calls in that order. Wisconsin fans would be very happy with both, and I personally think Sprinkle could have a great run in the B1G.