For as long as I’ve been a conscious basketball fan, Bo Ryan has been the head coach of Wisconsin’s basketball team. He has been the essence, the engine, the lifeblood and the DNA of what Badger basketball means.

Though we knew it was coming soon, last night’s announcement to retire in the middle of the season was quite unexpected. For a few minutes there, the entire UW campus was left grasping for air after a sucker punch to the gut, not really sure what to believe, not really sure what to expect. It feels like one of our best friends is moving away far before any of us has had the chance to say goodbye.

After having almost a day to process the news, I felt obligated to put my thoughts down on paper. Finals can wait, even if Bo doesn’t agree. The truth is that we all owe it to Bo, and to ourselves, to take a moment and reflect. Moments like these are fleeting, yet they’re often the most important. Nobody knew that better than Bo Ryan.

We’re all pretty aware what Coach Ryan did for UW as a basketball program. The numbers are pretty astounding, and there’s little doubt in my mind that he’ll be the greatest coach in the history of the program. Not because he has the most wins in Wisconsin history and never once missed the March Madness tournament. Bo’s impact on the program has forever changed the direction of Badger basketball, the student body, and the university as a whole.

Bo’s teams, and his image, defied common basketball logic. While other big schools wined and dined the finest recruits in the country, he took the forgotten high school basketball players and turned them into disciplined young men. He played slow when everybody played fast, and he stressed fundamentals like rebounding, defense and ball-control when everyone else threw alley-oops. He yelled at his own players as much as the refs, but he did so to get nothing less than their absolute best, and they respected the hell out of him for it.

Even in just three and a half years as a Badger, I have countless memories to think back on that are inextricably linked to Coach Ryan himself. There would never have been an Alando Tucker, a Josh Gasser, a Mike Brusewitz, without Bo having the courage and foresight to give those guys a chance. But more than that, my UW experience will forever be based in the memories and bonding experiences we’ve shared due to Bo’s teams. Flooding State Street after beating Arizona to make the Final Four in 2014 still gives me the chills to think about. Ben Brust’s buzzer beater against Michigan is possibly my favorite memory from freshman year.

Even beyond basketball, Bo found a way to impact the community at-large. He established Make Bo Pay four years ago, and it’s now easily one of, if not the best traditions on campus. In just four years, this amazing event has raised over $1 million for cancer research, all from the larger-than-life heart of Coach Ryan. Hundreds of students come out to wait in line to shoot a basketball just two times. It’s not because they get to shoot in the Kohl Center rims, and it’s definitely not because of the free pizza. It’s because of Bo, his generosity, and the fact that he simply cares so damn much. I look forward to it every year and will continue to appreciate it long after my time here.

Last year, I was studying abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina during the spring, which meant I was gone for our second trip to the Final Four. I knew ahead of time how painful it might be to be away from campus during a potentially historic season, but I had no idea how special the season would really become. I was in Mendoza, Argentina (the Argentine equivalent to Napa Valley) when we tipped off to play Kentucky in the Final Four, and was lucky enough to find an Irish Pub that was willing to put the game on. I was the only person in the bar wearing Badger red, and really the only person interested in the game besides my few friends who were with me. I cheered, I yelled, and practically convulsed from nervous energy the entire game, getting many weird looks along the way.

You couldn’t have punched the smile off my face after the final buzzer sounded and I knew we had dethroned the undefeated Goliath. Even after watching countless Snapchats and seeing a multitude of Facebook posts about the craziness of State Street, in the end, it didn’t matter where I was. I might have been thousands of miles away, but thanks to Bo, I felt as close to Madison as ever. We may have lost to Duke, but Bo helped us climb to the top of the mountain, and I’ll cherish that memory for as long as I live.

All of this is about much more than just basketball. It’s about the memories that we’ve created, the legacy that Bo built and the communal foundation laid for all of the future Badgers out there. We laughed together at Bo’s toughness, and you better believe we cried together when he talked about his dad. Just like Frank Kaminsky said, we all have our own stories. This one is mine, but it’s one that I proudly share with every Badger, past, present and future. We’ll always be forever grateful to you, Coach Ryan, for everything you’ve done for this program, UW-Madison, and basketball as a whole.

Thank you.