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Bo Ryan announces he will retire at Wisconsin effective immediately

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Bo Ryan's announcement came in the midst of rocky start for the reining NCAA Tournament runners-up.

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Bo Ryan announced he will retire at the end of Wisconsin's semester after the Badgers beat Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Tuesday night, in what would be Ryan's last game as Wisconsin's head coach. Greg Gard, a long-time assistant coach under Ryan, will take over the program effective immediately.

The announcement comes as a surprise. Ryan announced he would be retiring after the 2015-16 season after the Badgers went to a second straight Final Four during the last NCAA Tournament, ultimately falling to Duke in the title game. Ryan then backtracked on that statement, saying he was still undecided about his future.

Ryan made his official announcement during a press conference Tuesday. He clarified that he would have made his announcement before the season began, but he wanted to give Gard time to process the death of his father before turning over control of the program.

When Ryan announced that he hadn't made a final decision about his future in August, Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez vowed to give Ryan space. The two decided together that the end of Wisconsin's first semester (final exams are just beginning in Madison) would be the most convenient time to announced Ryan's retirement.

Alvarez was on hand to compliment Ryan's legacy.

Ryan was emotional at the podium, but he expressed confidence that Gard would become an effective leader immediately.

Ryan will leave behind a remarkable legacy at Wisconsin. He never missed an NCAA Tournament in 14 seasons at the helm, and he never finished out of the top four during the regular season in a competitive Big Ten conference. The pinnacle of his success were his last two seasons, during which he went to back-to-back Final Fours and nearly won a national championship with the national Player of the Year Frank Kaminsky.

One of the key players on those teams, current Badgers forward Nigel Hayes, said he sensed something was different about Ryan ahead of their game Tuesday.

Ryan's record at Wisconsin was 360-130 for a winning percentage of .714 that ranks 54th all-time among college basketball coaches. His .717 winning percentage in conference play is the best in Big Ten history, and it's no surprise that he was named conference's Big Ten Coach of the Year four times.

As sterling as his record at Wisconsin is, he had a long, accomplished coaching career even before he got to Madison. Ryan coached at Wisconsin-Platteville from 1984 to 1999, racking up 352 wins and four national championships. His Platteville Pioneers were the winningest team in Division III during the 1990s. After winning the 1999 Div. III national championship, Ryan was hired at Milwaukee, where he coached for two seasons before taking over for Dick Bennett at Wisconsin in 2001.

Gard has been at Ryan's side almost every step of the way. The 45-year-old was in his 23rd season as a Ryan assistant, following the coach from Platteville, to Milwaukee, to Madison. Ryan has given Gard heavy praise as a game planner and recruiter in the past, which is meaningful within a program that prides itself on its strict adherence to its system and its ability to identify talent where others can't.

Gard takes over a team in a rut. After a 7-5 start that includes losses to Western Illinois, Milwaukee and in-state rival Marquette, Wisconsin is in real danger of missing out on an NCAA Tournament berth for the first time since 1998. Ryan, often adverse to playing freshmen has been forced to use several youngsters this season, and the results has been lack of Wisconsin's trademark chemistry.

Whatever Wisconsin's fate, it pales in comparison to the impact of Tuesday's news. Ryan will be incredibly missed at Wisconsin. When Ryan first announced his retirement, Curtis Hogg at Bucky's 5th Quarter had the unenviable task of defining Ryan's legacy and summed it up justly:

For years, pundits called Wisconsin basketball "boring" and the knock on Ryan was that his slow-paced offense would always keep the Badgers from making the Final Four.

In the last two seasons, Ryan's teams essentially told the entire nation to shut it. Ryan's strategy didn't change; rather, the process came to an ever satisfying fruition.

The 2013-14 Badgers finished fourth in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to Kenpom.com. In 2014-15, they made their effort the previous season look like rubbish by becoming the best offense in college basketball history.

Any way you spin it, Bo Ryan completely transformed the basketball program at Wisconsin. It's a nearly impossible task to properly give justice to his successes and what he's meant to the players, students, fans and everyone around college basketball.