- Associated Press - Friday, December 18, 2015

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - One of the lessons that Greg Gard learned from his two decades assisting Bo Ryan might prove especially valuable now that he’s Wisconsin’s interim head coach.

Stay the course and don’t panic in times of adversity.

“You just try to get better at what we’re trying to accomplish instead of trying to do a 180 and have everybody confused,” Gard said. “Let’s stick true to who we are and what makes us successful and improve upon that.”

It’s a message that coaches will send to potential recruits, though the staff knows that, at least for the short term, there will be uncertainty.

While there is work to do, there is also plenty of time before the late signing period begins in mid-April.

Athletic director Barry Alvarez has said he will evaluate how Gard works with the team and then make a decision later on how the school will proceed.

“We’d hope that we’d have some body of work that would be out there that could indicate to a potential recruit … where the program could potentially go,” assistant coach Lamont Paris said.

Ryan stepped down abruptly following a win over Texas A&M-Corpus; Christi on Tuesday night. Gard, who was Ryan’s lead assistant, effectively got a three-month audition to keep the job for good.

The Badgers (7-5) have struggled so far this season. While they return two starters from the back-to-back Final Four squads in forward Nigel Hayes and guard Bronson Koenig, Wisconsin is much less experienced overall and not as deep off the bench. Promising freshmen Charlie Thomas and Khalil Iverson are the first two reserves on a team with no scholarship seniors.

The roster dynamics also mean that the Badgers don’t have many spots to fill in the next recruiting class.

They have one scholarship already available, with another spot expected to open with the departure of little-used guard Riley Dearring, who was granted his release this week after leaving the team. The future of Hayes could be a wild card if he were to contemplate leaving early to enter the NBA draft.

Ryan’s departure may remove one layer of uncertainty for potential prospects, especially for the 2017 class, Paris said.

“Now it’s not, ‘How long will Coach Ryan coach.’ That part is eliminated from the equation on their side,” Paris said. “Now it’s, ‘What will the school do?’ We’ve made the first the first step … and then how will the season progress, how much success will (Wisconsin) have.”

The quicker a decision is made on a replacement, the more time that the next coach - whether it’s Gard or someone else - will have to cement recruiting.

“We’ll look long-term vision in terms of recruiting and how we’re going to attack all this with our staff, and we will recruit aggressively. That will not change,” said Gard, who was Ryan’s recruiting coordinator.

The overall message was to relay the big picture at Wisconsin, including track records in academics as well on the floor.

Big Ten Network analyst Howard Moore, a former Wisconsin assistant under Ryan, said the focus for now is to keep an eye on prospects, though there is no rush because there are no seniors to replace.

“There’s not going to be any void you’ll fill necessarily,” Moore said. “Make sure people know you’re interested, you have a chance, have a shot … to getting the job.”

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Follow Genaro Armas at http://twitter.com/GArmasAP

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