He was one step closer to basketball immortality last year, but former Wisconsin Badgers and UW-Platteville coach Bo Ryan and numerous players, coaches and others from the Milwaukee Bucks and others connected to Wisconsin will all have to wait at least one more year after the release of the Basketball Hall of Fame finalist list on Friday.
Ryan joined former Bucks players Bob Dandridge, Dale Ellis and Marques Johnson, former Bucks coaches Del Harris and George Karl, former Badgers star Michael Finley, MECCA court artist Robert Indiana and early sports and civil rights pioneer Paul Robeson as candidates, but they were all denied the final spots which were given to:
- Kobe Bryant
- Tamika Catchings
- Tim Duncan
- Kevin Garnett
- Kim Mulkey
- Barbara Stevens
- Eddie Sutton
- Rudy Tomjanovich
Ryan spent 32 years coaching college basketball teams in the state of Wisconsin. In 15 years at UW-Platteville, he directed them to four national championships.
He then stepped up to the NCAA Division 1 level, where he coached the UW-Milwaukee Panthers to two winning seasons after six years with losing records.
In 2001, Ryan joined the Badgers program as head coach. Wisconsin made the NCAA Tournament in all 15 seasons he coached there.
In 2013-14 and 2014-15, he took the Badgers to the NCAA Final Four – the only teams in the history of the state of Wisconsin to go to the Final Four in back-to-back years.
His 2014-15 team went 36-4 and came within one win of a national championship, falling to Duke in a controversial loss in the title game.
The other candidates with Wisconsin ties were as follows:
The man WTMJ Bucks radio voice Eddie Doucette dubbed “The Greyhound,” Dandridge was the unsung star of the 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks NBA championship squad. While in the shadow of Hall of Famers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson, Dandridge scored 18.4 points, grabbed 8.0 rebounds and delivered 3.5 assists per game for one of the greatest single-season basketball teams in NBA history.
While with Milwaukee from 1969-77 and 1981-82, he made the NBA All-Star Game three times and averaged 18.6 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists per contest. He also starred for the Washington Bullets from 1977-81 and won an NBA title in 1978.
Ellis played in parts of three years with the Milwaukee Bucks over a 17-year NBA career. From 1990-92, he played his first stint with the Bucks, and came back for part of the 1999-2000 campaign. While with the Bucks, h,e scored 15.0 points, corralled 3.1 rebounds and dished out 1.2 assists per game.
His career averages included 15.7 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.4 assists per contest while with Milwaukee, Seattle, Denver, Dallas, San Antonio and Charlotte.
A two-time first-team All-Big Ten star at Wisconsin, Finley was one of the main pieces of the Badgers’ resurgence that has led them to become a Big Ten power for nearly 30 years. He averaged 18.7 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. His Badgers made the NCAA Tournament in 1994, their first appearance since 1947.
Finley later had a 15-year NBA career with Dallas, San Antonio, Phoenix and Boston and was a two-time NBA All-Star.
Harris spent parts of six years with the Milwaukee Bucks, his first as an assistant under Don Nelson in 1986-87. Then, he took over for Nelson and coached four-plus seasons in Milwaukee, directing Milwaukee to the playoffs four times.
His greatest success in coaching came in 1980-81, when he directed the Houston Rockets to an unlikely NBA Finals appearance. He also coached for five years with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Basketball became art, thanks to the canvas of the man who turned the floor of the Milwaukee Bucks and Marquette men’s basketball program into his canvas.
In 1977, the MECCA (Milwaukee Exposition Convention Center and Arena) reached out to the pop-art icon to design the new arena floor. What he designed was arguably the most iconic basketball court ever created, one immediately connectable to the Brew City at a time when both the Bucks and Marquette were in their prominence.
A court with the exact artistic specifications was brought back for an NBA game in recent years when the Bucks and Celtics played at the MECCA, now called UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena.
The current TV analyst of the Milwaukee Bucks spent seven seasons with the men in green (1977-84). He mad four NBA Finals appearances and averaged 21.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists in his years with Milwaukee, helping invent the “point forward” position and lead the Bucks to some of the best years in their franchise history.
Johnson also played three years with the Los Angeles Clippers and one year with the Golden State Warriors.
Since 1974, no Milwaukee Bucks team ever got closer to the NBA Finals than the Karl-directed squad of 2000-01. It pushed the Philadelphia 76ers to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals before falling in that final contest of the series.
Karl directed the Milwaukee Bucks for five seasons, from 1998-2003. The Bucks finished at .500 or above every year, with four playoff appearances and the only postseason series wins between 1989 and 2019.
Those years were part of a 27-year NBA head coaching career. He took the Seattle Supersonics to the NBA Finals in 1996 and also directed teams in Cleveland, Golden State, Denver and Sacramento.
Robeson is a candidate due to his time as one of the first African-American basketball stars, playing at Rutgers University in the late 1910’s.
The connection to Wisconsin for the eventual civil rights leader and musical star does not come from basketball, but football. Robeson played with the NFL’s 1922 Milwaukee Badgers while doing research for his law degree at Marquette University.