Jim Polzin of the Wisconsin State Journal dropped a bomb on Tuesday morning. Part of a tough conversation between Greg Gard and his senior players was leaked and made public. The audio tape revealed several grievances the seven seniors had with their head coach. Reaction to the story from fans was mixed. Some sided more with the players, while others stood behind Coach Gard.
Here’s what some notable members of the Badger basketball program had to say.
Sam Dekker – Former Wisconsin Basketball Star (2012-2015)
Dekker, a member of UW’s back-to-back Final Four squads, made his feelings clear on Twitter.
In a since-deleted tweet, Dekker slammed the Badger seniors, saying, “Who the hell gave these guys the idea that they’re bigger than the program? Never been angrier reading an article. And recording a meeting is the softest thing I’ve ever seen. Grow up. Gard isn’t the one on a 8 min scoring drought every game. Get outta here.”
Dekker followed up that tweet by saying: “And I truly am rooting for all of those guys for their futures. But this getting out affects all of them. I hope they know that. Future employers/coaches aren’t going to want a guy that is recorded saying “we will never talk to you again or win for you.”
Ben Brust – Former Wisconsin Basketball Standout (2010-2014)
Brust, one of Wisconsin’s most prolific three-point shooters and a member of the 2014 Final Four team, didn’t hold back. The now analyst and radio host joined the Wilde & Tausch show and shared his position.
“My instant reaction was it is the softest group ever assembled that played at the University of Wisconsin,” Brust said. “I can’t put it any more clear than that.”
In addition, he continued by saying that Bo Ryan should be happy he isn’t coaching anymore, “because no one in this day and age would be able to handle the way he coached and developed players. It’s that simple. Too many feelings would be hurt.”
Brust also said that he had been trading messages regarding the released story with former teammates all morning. It will be interesting to see if any more of them share their thoughts about the situation in the coming days.
Greg Gard – Wisconsin Basketball Head Coach (2015-present)
The man of the hour. Gard told the State Journal when they reached out to him for comment that he was disturbed “somebody would take a private family meeting and make it for public consumption.” He said he was more upset about the recording being shared publicly than he was about the hard conversation with his players back in February. In fact, he had no issue with the seniors wanting to talk to him about their concerns. “There’s going to be hard conversations,” he said in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “There’s going to be adversity. Not every day is going to be sunny and 75. There’s going to be cloudy days in your life… They understand they can come to me at any point in time and have honest, real conversations. Those conversations are always healthy.”
A few hours after the story broke, Gard released an official statement:
“I care deeply about the student-athletes in our program. I want nothing more than to help them and see them succeed on and off the court. Our program has a lengthy track record of doing both. But the path to a championship or to graduation is not always easy. Sometimes there are setbacks. Difficult conversations have to be had. Sometimes people just need to get things off their chest. At the end of the day, I believe we are all better for having gone through challenging moments.
I, along with my assistant coaches, have our players’ backs. I am fully committed to their development as basketball players, students and young men. And I am willing and open to conversations with our players any time in an effort to achieve their goals and those of our program. I am glad our seniors felt comfortable enough to come forward and give me an opportunity to address their concerns.
Basketball seasons are full of highs and lows, wins and losses, moments of joy and frustration. The 2020-2021 season, in particular, was made even more challenging and stressful due to the pandemic. I am proud of every student-athlete on our team that competed and persevered and gave what they could for the success of the team.
Needless to say, I am incredibly disappointed to find out that a private meeting between seniors from our 2020-2021 team and our coaching staff was secretly recorded, edited, and made public. It shows a complete lack of care for our program culture and for the confidentiality that is owed to our student-athletes who wanted an opportunity to share their thoughts behind closed doors.”
Barry Alvarez – University of Wisconsin Athletic Director (Retiring)
The final days of Barry Alvarez’s tenure as Wisconsin’s A.D. look to be filled with turbulence. Having less than 10 days left on the job before his retirement becomes official, there’s likely not much Alvarez will have to do with what comes out of this situation. However, he did release a statement:
“I coached for a lot of years and the idea that someone would record and edit a conversation between student-athletes and their coaches is extremely disappointing.
Difficult conversations between coaches and student-athletes have been happening since the beginning of time. Every program goes through adversity and a variety of challenging moments. That’s sports. Teams work through it all together and, hopefully, get better from it.
Greg Gard and his staff, like all of our coaches last year, guided their program through the stress and difficulties of the pandemic and the team kept battling all the way into the NCAA Tournament. Greg, his staff and his team have my full support as they look toward the 2021-22 season.”
Chris McIntosh – Incoming University of Wisconsin Athletic Director (Begins July 1, 2021)
Alvarez’s successor, Chris McIntosh, will be welcomed to his new position by dealing with this messy situation. However, he seems to fully stand behind Greg Gard. In a phone interview with the Journal Sentinel, McIntosh said that Gard has “our full support.” He added, “Does (this) make it easier for us? It doesn’t. But I think we understand what Coach Gard is all about and how much he does care about his players. Our assessment of that takes place on a day-by-day basis over the course of years. Not one recording that was edited.”
In addition to defending Gard, McIntosh let it be known he was not pleased to see someone record the meeting, edit the clip, and eventually release it. “It is disappointing that trust was broken in this case. Those are conversations that should be kept in the locker room,” he said. “The fact that a recording was shared publicly and it was edited, I think it is terrible.”
When McIntosh was asked why someone would do this, he said it was hard to imagine how someone who cared about the program could do it. However, he chose not to speculate who recorded and released the clip.
Players in the Recording – D’Mitrik Trice, Aleem Ford, Nate Reuvers, Trevor Anderson, Brad Davison, Micah Potter, & Walt McGrory
None of the players in the leaked recording have publicly commented on the situation. However, a few have liked a tweet alluding to the fact that a player didn’t release the tape.
When Brad Davison was reached for comment by the State Journal before the story was released, he shared that he was disappointed someone had made the private conversation public. He also said that he was thankful to have been in an environment where players were able to address their concerns to their coaches. In addition, he shared that his relationship with Gard isn’t always perfect, 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.”
Additionally, none of the three assistant coaches that were part of the meeting have commented, either.
Current Badgers – 2021-2022 Team
At this time, no members of the 2021-2022 roster have commented on the story. However, Coach Gard did talk with his current team after the story was released. He shared that every player on the team acknowledged they had had tough conversations with previous coaches in the past.
In addition, he added that the biggest concern the current team had was not what was said in the recording, but instead that someone had recorded and publicly shared part of a meeting that was supposed to be private.
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