Leaked audio of a tense conversation between Wisconsin basketball players and head coach Greg Gard prompted a response from the university on Monday.
An anonymous email account sent the Wisconsin State Journal a 37-minute audio file of a candid Feb. 19 meeting where players laid bare their feelings about Gard. Much of what was said on the recording was not flattering.
'I can't talk to you. I just don't want to talk to you.'
The Badgers were in the midst of a disappointing run that saw them finish in sixth place in the Big Ten after starting the season as the No. 7 team in the country. Transcripts that the Journal shared paint a picture of a lack of trust and communication between Gard and his players.
“I just feel like, coach, we don’t have a relationship,” senior forward Nate Reuvers said, per the Journal. “In my mind, it’s too late for that. I personally don’t think or feel like you care about our future aspirations.
“I can’t talk to you. I just don’t want to talk to you. After this, coach, I don’t know what type of relationship we’re going to have, if we have one.”
Reuvers started 104 of the 124 games he played for Gard at Wisconsin.
'We're not here to build your résumé'
Gard was named Big Ten Coach of the Year in the COVID-19-shortened 2019-20 season that saw the Badgers finish tied atop the conference standings before the pandemic canceled the conference and NCAA tournaments.
Senior guard D'Mitrik Trice told Gard that he felt a disconnect from the success of that season and the 2020-21 season.
“Last year we were playing for one another, but we were also playing for you,” Trice said, per the Journal. “I feel like the disconnect is we’re not playing for you right now. We’re not here to build your resume, so to speak, with all respect given.”
Trice started 108 of the 143 games he played for Gard at Wisconsin.
Senior guard Walt McGrory expressed a similar sentiment to Reuvers' in terms of his relationship with Gard.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever talk to you again after this,” McGrory said, per the Journal. “We don’t even talk here. I’ll avoid talking to you here, so why would I talk to you after I leave? I can’t hold a conversation with you.”
An anonymous player told the Journal that Gard sat quietly and listened as players aired their grievances and took blame for the issues in the Wisconsin locker room.
“He sat there, he listened and there was not one dry eye in the entire room at the end of everything,” the player said, per the 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 'incredibly disappointed' about leaked audio
Gard told the Journal he was upset about the private conversation being leaked.
“It’s so disturbing that somebody would take a private family meeting and make it for public consumption,” he said.
After the story was published, Gard and Wisconsin outgoing athletic director Barry Alvarez released statements through the athletic department.
In his statement, Gard vowed that he has "our players' backs" and is "fully committed to their development as basketball players, students and young men." He also reiterated his feelings about the audio being leaked:
"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."
Barry Alvarez backs Gard
Alvarez, who is slated to retire on June 30, expressed his support for Gard as Wisconsin's head coach.
"Greg, his staff and his team have my full support as they look toward the 2021-22 season," Alvarez's statement reads.
Statement from Director of Athletics Barry Alvarez pic.twitter.com/3i4xDOlTB7
— Wisconsin Basketball (@BadgerMBB) June 22, 2021
Gard has coached Wisconsin for six seasons, leading the Badgers to a 119-70 record and four NCAA tournament appearances. After the February meeting, Wisconsin won its first Big Ten tournament game before losing to Iowa in the conference quarterfinals. The Badgers earned a No. 9 seed in the NCAA tournament and beat North Carolina in the first round before losing to eventual champion Baylor in the second round.
Who recorded and leaked the audio remains a mystery.
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