ESPN polled a panel of 45 members with experience and expertise in college basketball in order to determine the top 50 coaches in Division I.
Bo Ryan of the Wisconsin Badgers is No. 7 on that list, with his ranking revealed on Thursday.
Ryan, 66, hasn’t taken a typical ride to the upper echelon of Division I basketball. He’s coached college basketball in Wisconsin for almost 40 years, beginning with a stint as an assistant at UW under coaches Bill Cofield and Steve Yoder from 1976-84.
From there, he took over as head coach at Wisconsin-Platteville, leading the Pioneers to a 353-76 record in 15 seasons, winning eight Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference titles and four national championships in Division III, including back-to-back titles in 1998 and 1999.
In 1999, Ryan let for Milwaukee, where he guided the Panthers to its first back-to-back winning seasons in nearly a decade and posting a 30-27 record in his two seasons.
He moved up to the Big Ten in 2001 when he was named the replacement for Dick Bennett at Wisconsin. Bennett had retired two games into the previous season and interim coach Brad Soderberg finished out the year.
Ryan had low expectations in his first year on the job, with the Badgers picked to finish as low as ninth in the conference in preseason polls. But that 2001-02 team forged part of a four-way share for the conference regular-season title and reached the NCAA tournament.
In 2002-03, Wisconsin won its first outright Big Ten title since 1946-47 and reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.
Ryan is 321-121 in 13 seasons in Madison, reaching the Big Dance each season, including five Sweet Sixteens, two Elite Eights and, in 2014, the school’s first Final Four appearance since 2000.
The Badgers have won or shared three Big Ten regular-season titles during Ryan’s tenure and won the conference tournament in 2004 and 2008. They reached No. 1 in the Associated Press poll during the 2006-07 season, the first time in school history Wisconsin had been ranked No. 1.
Ryan has done it despite never having the nation’s most elite talent. During his tenure at Wisconsin, the Badgers have had three consensus All-Americans—Devin Harris in 2004, Alando Tucker in 2007 and Jordan Taylor in 2011.
The Badgers are losing only one starter from last season’s Final Four team and seem primed for another deep run into March behind their veteran coach who absolutely deserves a top-10 national ranking among Division I coaches.