Jim Polzin of the Wisconsin State Journal dropped a major bomb on Tuesday morning. He revealed players in the Wisconsin basketball program have issues with head coach Greg Gard, and they’re not light ones. In a secretly-recorded 37-minute audio file sent to the WSJ, seven seniors shared their grievances with Gard and three assistants.
On February 19th, the day after their home loss to Iowa, Wisconsin’s seniors called a meeting with their coaching staff. Brad Davison, D’Mitrik Trice, Nate Reuvers, Micah Potter, Aleem Ford, Trevor Anderson, and Walt McGrory were all in attendance. None of them held anything back while addressing their major concerns with Gard.
Among the players’ grievances was they felt Gard didn’t care for them or have their backs. Reuvers and McGrory stated they didn’t think they would have a relationship with Gard after they left the program. They even went as far as saying they might never talk to him again.
Ford addressed the fact that he didn’t feel at home. He said he wasn’t sure if he’d tell recruits to come to Wisconsin after what he went through. Anderson criticized Gard for calling out certain players after losses, allegedly placing the full blame on them.
Trice added, “We’re not here to build your resume.” In addition, Potter wondered if he’d wasted a year of his life coming back for his senior season.
Let’s look at both sides involved in this turmoil…
Anyone who has ever played a sport has likely had differences with their coach that lead to frustrations. It’s part of the game.
Every player has the right to share these frustrations. The Badgers were right to call a meeting with their coaches to express their concerns to try working through them.
The seniors could have kept their feelings bottled up, finished out the season, and moved on. Some might say they chose the healthier and more mature route instead, ensuring their coach understood how they felt. Brad Davison says to Gard in the recording that the meeting was not coming from hate or animosity, but rather a “program driven conversation.”
The 2020-2021 season was one like no other. The COVID-19 pandemic drastically changed the way the season was conducted. Daily testing, masking, and no fans were just some changes the team had to accept as the new normal.
Players had many stressors added to their lives and as student athletes, in the classroom and on the court. Additionally, the senior-led Badger squad entered the 2020-2021 season with enormously high expectations to live up to.
In the end, they failed to meet them. All of these factors probably exacerbated the players’ frustrations that culminated in calling this meeting.
Though only one season removed from Big Ten Coach of the Year, it’s clear Gard can make some improvements. I believe he’ll do everything in his power to fix the issues brought to his attention in this meeting. That’s just the kind of person he is.
According to multiple people at the meeting, Gard listened to his players vent without interrupting and addressed their concerns. There was good dialogue established between players and coaches, and both parties left feeling as though something had been accomplished.
After the audio file was released, one player said of Gard in the meeting, “He sat there, he listened, and there was not one dry eye in the entire room at the end of everything. The biggest thing that he did at the end was he apologized again and he was in tears and he said, ‘It’s not your fault, it’s my fault.’”
Addressing the Concerns
It seems as though Gard took what his seniors said to heart. For example, Potter called his coach out in the meeting for not standing up for his players; Davison in particular. Just over two weeks later, Davison was issued a questionable Flagrant-1 hook and hold in a loss at Iowa. Gard passionately defended Davison in his postgame news conference that night.
However, it’s important to note that a year earlier, Gard had stood up for Davison after he was suspended by the Big Ten for one game.
“I’ve known Brad Davison since he was in eighth grade,’’ Gard said. “I will vouch for his character until the day I die, just like I will for anybody else, my guys in my locker room. I will go to bat for them. I’ve got their back completely. I do not agree with this punishment that was handed down.”
In the end, Gard didn’t turn the ball over. Gard didn’t miss open shots. Gard didn’t constantly go on long scoring droughts.
I can’t help but think that his players were frustrated and disappointed in themselves for failing to live up to the expectations placed on them that year. Perhaps it culminated in them taking it out on their coach and placing unreasonable blame on him.
Leaking the Tape
The tape’s content is certainly concerning. However, it’s important to note that this meeting reportedly lasted about two hours and only 37 minutes were released. At this time, it’s still unknown who leaked the audio recording.
Gard is upset that the privacy of those involved in the conversation had been violated. “It’s so disturbing that somebody would take a private family meeting and make it for public consumption,” he said.
The criticism revealed is quite eye-opening. There’s no denying that the Badger seniors were very upset. Still, releasing the conversation was in poor taste and its implications could reach far beyond this past 2020-2021 disappointing season.
Davison — the only senior who chose to stay with the Badgers after being granted one additional year of eligibility due to the pandemic — is disappointed that someone chose to share this private conversation.
Davison said that he was thankful “to have an environment in our program where we’re able to have tough conversations and hold team meetings where we can bring some things to the surface.” In addition, he stated that his relationship with Gard had ups and down over his years in Madison, but “it’s one that I value and I cherish and I’m thankful that he’s my mentor for my coaching career that I want to start someday.”
Wisconsin Sports Heroics will continue to keep you updated on further developments regarding this story.
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