After his stint as an assistant, Ryan accepted the head coaching position at the University of Wisconsin–Platteville. From 1984 until 1999 Ryan's Platteville team posted a 352–76 overall record, a winning percentage of 82%. Ryan guided the UW–Platteville Pioneers to four national championships (1991, 1995, 1998, 1999). He also won eight Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championships and set a Division III scoring defense record in 1997 with his team only allowing 47.5 points per game.
On January 27, 2007 the University of Wisconsin–Platteville officially honored Ryan's 15-year tenure by naming their basketball court "Bo Ryan Court". Ryan, along with the 2007 Wisconsin Badger team, attended the event.
In the 2006–2007 season, Ryan led the Badgers to the pinnacle of college basketball, helping them achieve their first top-five ranking and #1 ranking in the AP poll in the school's history. However, the Badger's time atop the poll was short-lived as they lost their following game against Michigan State before losing to Ohio State in a #1 vs. #1 matchup. The Wisconsin-Ohio State game on February 25, 2007, featured two teams ranked #1 in that week's national polls, with Ohio State securing the top ranking in the Coaches' poll and clinching the regular season Big Ten Title. The following week they rebounded with a 52-50 win at home over Michigan State and again defeated Michigan State in the Big Ten tournament, before losing the Big Ten Tournament championship game to Ohio State. In 2007, Bo was named the winner of the Clair Bee Coach of the Year Award.
On March 9, 2012, in the 2012 Big Ten Conference Men's Basketball Tournament quarterfinals the Badgers defeated the Hoosiers, giving Ryan his 266th win at Wisconsin and vaulting him past Bud Foster to become the winningest coach in school history.
Ryan has written three books: Bo Ryan: Another Hill to Climb, The Swing Offense, and Passing and Catching: the Lost Art. He led the Badgers to the NCAA Tournament in each of his 14 full seasons at Wisconsin; the team had only been to a total of seven NCAA Tournaments before Ryan's arrival (three of them under Bennett). He also owns all four of Wisconsin's 30-win seasons.
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