“The first rule when you’re digging yourself into a hole is to stop digging,” ESPN Radio’s Colin Cowherd said during his Thursday show.
He was referring to an on-air appearance by Wisconsin men’s basketball coach Bo Ryan two hours earlier on Mike & Mike in the Morning.
Ryan became a worldwide trending topic on Twitter even before the completion of his two-segment phone interview (video here) with Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic. In the ensuing hours, Ryan was the object of harsh criticism from coast to coast.
If it wasn’t for ESPN Audio producer Mike Urrunaga, Ryan’s refusal to grant Jarrod Uthoff an unconditional release* may have remained on the fringe of sports talk. Instead, it became THE hot button issue of the day.
Urrunaga was able to get Ryan on-air at 9:30 a.m. after some dogged leg work upon hearing the Mikes impassioned disapproval of Ryan’s tactics (despite his claim that it’s widespread in college basketball). The show’s talent and staff wanted to give Ryan a chance to tell his side of the story.
“I texted the Wisconsin Sports Information Director, and asked if Coach Ryan would like to respond to what was being said,” Urrunaga said. “He called me back and put me in contact with Coach Ryan. I said, ‘Are you okay going on-air to respond to what we’re talking about?’ and he said, ‘Sure.’”
What followed was a back-and-forth which has seen Ryan described as “defensive,” “contentious,” and “testy” by interested observers, Tweeters, bloggers and writers.
“He’s a nice guy, we’ve had him on-air a couple of times before,” Urrunaga said. “I talked to him for about 10 minutes a couple of Final Fours ago, and he’s a real great guy.”
Such a great guy, in fact, that even when the show’s clock demanded a national break (termed a “hard break”), Ryan agreed to continue the discussion for another segment.
The result was incredibly compelling audio and widespread praise for how Mike and Mike conducted the interview.
*Late Thursday afternoon, the Associated Press reported that Uthoff will be allowed to seek transfer to any school outside of the Big Ten conference, of which Wisconsin is a member.