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Badgers post opening, begin search for permanent men's coach

MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin interim coach Greg Gard might want to update his cover letter.

The school has posted an opening for a men's basketball coach, a sign that Gard could be one step closer to replacing Bo Ryan on a permanent basis.

A job posted Thursday on the university's human resources website sought applications for the position by March 3, with an earliest anticipated start date of March 8, which is the day before the start of the Big Ten tournament.

"Um, I think I might," Gard said with a smile after practice Friday about applying for the job.

The job will stay open until filled, senior associate athletic director Justin Doherty said Friday. It means there is not necessarily a hard timeline after that date.

At least the formal process has started to find Ryan's replacement, though it's not necessarily a milestone that is going to worry Gard.

"I've just taken it day by day," Gard said. "Nothing gets me to tip sideways one [way] or the other."

After a 1-4 start in league play, Gard has stabilized Wisconsin by using his bench players more and tweaking the offense. The Badgers (18-10, 10-5 Big Ten) have won nine of their last 10 games, including victories over four ranked teams.

Spacing and ball movement is better with Wisconsin reverting to more of a swing offense. Of late, guard Bronson Koenig's outside shooting has picked up. Leading scorer Nigel Hayes is getting to the foul line, and freshman forward Ethan Happ has emerged as a potent scorer around the bucket.

Defensively, the Badgers have focused on tightening driving lanes and making it more difficult for opponents to get to the bucket.

"Coach Ryan had the same principles," forward Vitto Brown said. "Coach Gard has done a great job of maybe putting an impression on us a little bit more."

Wisconsin hosts Michigan on Sunday in its regular-season home finale before traveling to Minnesota and Purdue to finish out the schedule. Sometime in between scouting reports and practice, Gard will have to dust off a cover letter that he hasn't had to update since following Ryan as an assistant to Wisconsin from Milwaukee in 2001.

Besides the Big Ten, other conference tourneys around the country also take place in a couple weeks with teams preparing for the NCAA tournament. Other schools pondering a coaching change will also start looking at candidates in March.

At Wisconsin, state rules prevent a permanent replacement for Ryan from being named without the school going through a formal hiring process requiring interviews with multiple candidates.

"This just gives them options to do whatever they want to do at this point in time," Gard said about the timing of the posting. "I have no problem whenever they did it. ... I'm locked in on this team and worried [about] the next game and the next practice and try keeping moving these guys forward."

Ryan retired following a 64-49 win on Dec. 15 over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. The abrupt timing gave Gard, a longtime assistant, a three-month audition to take over the job permanently.

"Every coach would like their top assistant to be the coach," Ryan said in his final news conference.

Athletic director Barry Alvarez said then that he planned to make a decision at the end of the season on how to proceed.

"Ever since coach Ryan retired, Barry has been evaluating both inside and outside the program," Doherty said Friday morning. "We're getting on toward the end of the season is the reality. You want to give yourself enough time to have done some evaluation.

"We feel it's time to start the process," Doherty said.

Gard was considered one of the top assistants in the game, playing an integral role in a Wisconsin program coming off back-to-back Final Four appearances. Gard worked with Ryan for 20 seasons, including 14-plus years in Madison.