Analysis: Badgers' Ryan, Marquette's Williams have deeper, right perspective
Buzz Williams, Bo Ryan. | Photos: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
MILWAUKEE - The 2011-12 season has again proven to be a year to take pride in college basketball in Wisconsin, a state more known for gridiron success.
Both Marquette and Wisconsin fans, however, should take pride in the proper perspective both teams' head coaches have as they stand six combined wins away from an all-cheesehead national championship game.
By far, however, the accomplishments of Bo Ryan and Buzz Williams are not the most meaningful things to these men.
Buzz Williams: "Faith, hope and love....it's so humbling"
For proof of Buzz's view, go about 8:48 into this video, and you'll see a near-tearful, definitely weary Williams referencing his deep faith, the sacrifices of his family, and how they have affected him while his teams chase victory for that Jesuit school on Wisconsin Avenue.
He starts - like a certain Vince Lombardi did in a speech to his Green Bay Packers in 1967 - by quoting a letter from the New Testament written by St. Paul.
"Faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love," said a hoarse-throated Williams during the postgame press conference after Marquette's 3rd-round victory over Murray State.
"A lot of these kids have never been loved. When you've never been loved, and you're 20 years old, and somebody tries to love you for the first time, you don't know how to handle it. When you start talking about God for the first time, and you think about what those kids have been through the previous 20 years, they're not sure there is a God.
"When you start talking about love, and talking about God, and you're with kids every single day, and you do it for about 150 days, then they get up here and speak, which is a lot harder than you think, to people that they don't know, and they use the same words you use, it means you're helping their life. That's what it means."
Then, when asked about going into the stands to embrace his wife and children after Marquette's win over Murray State, Williams went into the life his family endures due to his job. He revealed the raw and sometimes painful strain his field of work puts on them, and showed his intense appreciation for the love of his wife.
"I'm humbled by it all. Extremely grateful for my wife and the sacrifices she makes, and for our four children. Growing up as sons and daughters of coaches is very volatile and extremely emotional," said Williams through multiple sniffles.
"Show up and go to work, and do it every day, no matter what's surrounding you. That's really hard, man. You've got to be a lion chaser to be married to me. She's tougher than all them kids that we play with. It's really humbling."
Bo Ryan: "I'm so thankful..."
Ryan tends not to show his more vulnerable emotions or his faith on his sleeve as much as the self-proclaimed Texas country boy.
The basketball junkie from Philadelphia more often emotes in sideline near-explosions, or laughter telling a funny story with his eastern accent.
But down deep, he feels the same passions and emotions about his players and his family.
Badgers radio voice Matt Lepay (who you hear during Wisconsin football and basketball broadcasts on Newsradio 620 WTMJ) said it very well in a blog entry he wrote after a Wisconsin win that gave Ryan the all-time Badgers record for basketball coaching victories during the recent Big Ten tournament:
"As for the record, 'All the memories to me always go to the players and the teams and things that they did,' said Ryan. 'I just feel really good for all the people involved in the program.'
"Then the ultra-competitive head coach showed his human side, too. 'There is so much that goes into it that I'm so thankful for, from my family. And the fact that my...' Ryan needed three or four seconds to regain his composure before finishing the sentence. 'My parents are still with me and had a chance to watch a lot of these games, and a lot of those teams that we've had.'
"I still think of Ryan's first season, when the Badgers upset seventh-ranked Illinois, 72-66. Among those who came out on the floor was Bo's father, Butch, pumping his fist as he joined the team in celebrating a memorable victory. No doubt Butch and Louise are very proud."
Matt, so is the basketball-loving contingent in the state of Wisconsin, about both coaches who have led the Badgers and MU on a run for greatness this season.