MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin‘s seniors were openly critical of coach Greg Gard during a late-season team meeting that was secretly recorded and later got sent to a newspaper.
The Wisconsin State Journal says it received a 37-minute audio file this week of a Feb. 19 team meeting that included seven senior players, Gard and three assistant coaches. The newspaper said that it received the recording from an anonymous email account and that the file included only a portion of the actual meeting.
During the meeting, forward Nate Reuvers tells Gard that “we don’t have a relationship” and that “I personally don’t think or feel like you care about our future aspirations.” Guard Walt McGrory tells Gard “I don’t know if I’ll ever talk to you again after this.”
“He sat there, he listened and there was not one dry eye in the entire room at the end of everything,” an unidentified player later told the State Journal. “The biggest thing that he did at the end was he apologized again and he was in tears and he said, ‘It’s not your fault, it’s my fault.'”
Gard told the State Journal “it’s so disturbing that somebody would take a private family meeting and make it for public consumption.”
“I care deeply about the student-athletes in our program. I want nothing more than to help them and see them succeed on and off the court. Our program has a lengthy track record of doing both. But the path to a championship or to graduation is not always easy. Sometimes there are setbacks. Difficult conversations have to be had. Sometimes people just need to get things off their chest. At the end of the day, I believe we are all better for having gone through challenging moments,” Gard said in a statement released by the school Tuesday.
“I, along with my assistant coaches, have our players’ backs. I am fully committed to their development as basketball players, students and young men. And I am willing and open to conversations with our players any time in an effort to achieve their goals and those of our program. I am glad our seniors felt comfortable enough to come forward and give me an opportunity to address their concerns.
“Basketball seasons are full of highs and lows, wins and losses, moments of joy and frustration. The 2020-21 season, in particular, was made even more challenging and stressful due to the pandemic. I am proud of every student-athlete on our team that competed and persevered and gave what they could for the success of the team.
“Needless to say, I am incredibly disappointed to find out that a private meeting between seniors from our 2020-21 team and our coaching staff was secretly recorded, edited and made public. It shows a complete lack of care for our program culture and for the confidentiality that is owed to our student-athletes who wanted an opportunity to share their thoughts behind closed doors.”
Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez said in a statement that, “… the idea that someone would record and edit a conversation between student-athletes and their coaches is extremely disappointing” and added that “Greg, his staff and his team have my full support as they look toward the 2021-22 season.”
Statement from Director of Athletics Barry Alvarez pic.twitter.com/3i4xDOlTB7
— Wisconsin Basketball (@BadgerMBB) June 22, 2021
Wisconsin went 18-13 and lost to eventual national champion Baylor in the second round of the NCAA tournament this past season. The Badgers had opened the season ranked seventh after winning a share of the Big Ten regular-season title in 2019-20.
Gard owns a 119-70 record with four NCAA tournament berths in six seasons. The Badgers also would have earned an NCAA bid in 2020 if the pandemic hadn’t halted the season.
Although the NCAA gave seniors the options to return for one more year of eligibility because of the pandemic, Brad Davison is the only one of Wisconsin’s seven 2020-21 seniors who plans to play for the Badgers next season.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.