As the 2020-21 season began to spiral south for the Wisconsin men’s basketball team in February, frustrations reportedly boiled over. The Badgers had just lost three of four games in early February, including two by 15 points, when the team’s seven seniors met the coach Greg Gard.
The meeting took place Feb. 19, a day after Iowa blew up UW at the Kohl Center, and lasted about two hours, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. There were 11 people in the room, including Gard, three assistants and the seniors.
An anonymous email account sent the State Journal a secretly recorded 37-minute audio file of the meeting. During the recording, the seniors addressed criticism to the Gard. Some seniors said Gard didn’t care or support them, while one player said he would find it difficult to recommend the program to rookies because of the culture in it.
Nate Reevers, a four-year-old starter, said: “I just feel like, coach, we don’t have a relationship. In my mind, it’s too late for that. Personally, I don’t think or feel that you care about our future aspirations.
” … I can not talk to you. I do not want to talk to you. After that, coach, I don’t know what kind of relationship we’re going to have, if we have one.
According to the State Journal, the recording stops after each of the seven seniors has addressed the Gard at least once. The veteran coach listened to the players speak without interrupting them and addressed each of their concerns later in the game.
Gard told the State Journal on Monday that he was upset someone chose to go public with a private meeting. Keep Brad Davison also expressed disappointment that someone chose to go public with this conversation, according to The State Journal.
The 2020-21 season didn’t go as planned for the Badgers, who finished 18-13 overall and 10-10 in Big Ten Conference play. The Badgers fired almost every player from the 2019-20 team that won a share of the Big Ten regular-season title. Expectations were high for the group at the start of last season, which was altered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to The State Journal, the taped portion of the meeting began with Davison talking about how the seniors discussed ending their time at UW. They thought it was important to air their frustrations with Gard before it was too late.
“We want a relationship with you where you know who we are, that you care about us, that you appreciate us more than on the basketball court,” Davison said during the meeting. “We want that and we feel like we’ve missed that in some areas.”
D’Mitrik Trice referenced the previous season, which started off turbulent for UW. It all started with an offseason car crash in Michigan that killed two members of Howard Moore’s family and left the UW assistant coach on medical leave.
The Badgers were on the NCAA Tournament bubble to start conference play when King of Kobe, then the team’s second top scorer, left the program and told the Journal d’Etat of his problems with the Gard. Then strength and conditioning coach Erik Helland was forced to quit after he admitted to using a racial slur in front of a group of extras.
The Badgers saved the season, however, winning eight straight games to end the season en route to a share of the conference title with Maryland and Michigan State. Gard was named Big Ten Coach of the Year before COVID-19 ended the season.
“Last year we were playing for each other, but we were also playing for you,” Trice said. “I feel like the disconnect (this season) is that we’re not playing for you right now. We’re not here to build your CV, so to speak, with all due respect.
Cheeky Micah Potter also referred to the 2019-20 season.
“…We just want the guy who came to us last year and tearfully apologized,” he said. “I’m not saying you have to cry and apologize. But it was honestly the biggest turning point of the last year. We were like, ‘Wow, we can play for this guy, we can identify with this guy.’ »
Later in the meeting, according to The State Journal, Potter called out Gard for not having the players’ backs, especially Davison’s. Players and fans often felt that Big Ten officials treated him unfairly.
“Stocks speak louder,” Potter said. “You say you’re going to do all this, you say you’re going to fight, you say you’re going to do anything. But in reality, you do not confirm it with your actions.
More than two weeks later, Gard backed up his words with actions when officials delivered Davison a Flagrant-1 hook and held him up late in a loss at Iowa. The Gard defended their player during their post-match press conference.
Keep Alem Ford, a native of Georiga, added during the meeting that UW doesn’t feel like a “home away from home” and that the family atmosphere that UW promotes is “kind of a lie and a show.” He later said he wasn’t sure if he would recommend the program to recruits.
“…because I wouldn’t want anyone else to go through what I went through,” he said.
The only senior from last year’s team who will return to UW for a fifth season, Davison told the State Journal that his relationship with Gard has had its ups and downs. He is, however, “grateful to be my mentor for my coaching career that I want to start one day.
“The reason you have tough locker room conversations is because you care about the people in the locker room and because you love them and ultimately want to grow with them,” Davison told the State Journal.
One player told the State Journal he left the game feeling productive. The results, however, were not indicative of this. UW has lost three of its last four games to end the regular season. The Badgers advanced to the NCAA Tournament but lost to Baylor in the second round.
“To be honest, I think he still hasn’t heard us,” one player told the State Journal. “He still hasn’t understood.”