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UW MEN’S BASKETBALL

Former UW basketball star, coach Alando Tucker laments ‘mistaken assumptions’ in first statement since departure

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tucker gard 8-4

UW men's basketball all-time leading scorer Alando Tucker, left, spent two seasons on Greg Gard's coaching staff.

After remaining silent for several months since not being retained as an assistant coach with the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball program, Alando Tucker released a statement Wednesday morning denying allegations he undermined coach Greg Gard at several points during his two seasons on staff.

Tucker’s comments came two days after the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported he tried to get Gard fired during the 2019-20 season and attempted to turn players against Gard this past season.

Jim Polzin is announced as the Lee Sports Wisconsin Columnist, where he will write stories covering all levels of sports throughout the state.

While not specifically mentioning the report or specific allegations, Tucker denied any wrongdoing Wednesday.

“Since the end of my tenure with the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s athletic department, I have been focused on a peaceful and amicable transition for my family and those associates, student athletes and peers I left behind,” Tucker, who played for the Badgers from 2002 to 2007 and is the program’s all-time leading scorer, said in his statement. “For months, however, I have been the target of slanderous articles, conversations, tweets and messages concerning my exit from UW-Madison, most of which have been based upon falsehoods, mistaken assumptions and misguided opinions.

“At this moment, I can no longer remain silent. I wish to state categorically that I have not done any of the things that I have been accused of. Those who know me and have worked with me know that is not my character.”

The Journal Sentinel, citing unnamed sources, reported Tucker tried to convince then-UW athletic director Barry Alvarez in January 2020 to fire Gard. Tucker told Alvarez that he was ready to take over the program, according to the report.

The Badgers at the time were in the midst of a tumultuous 2019-20 season that began with Tucker moving into an interim assistant coaching role in place of his longtime mentor, Howard Moore, who was seriously injured in a May 2019 car accident that killed his wife and 9-year-old daughter.

Kobe King left the program midway through the 2019-20 season and the program was rocked by another controversy just a week later when strength and conditioning coach Erik Helland was forced to resign after admitting he’d used a racial epithet in front of players earlier in the season.

Gard remained the coach and the Badgers rallied to win their final eight games and earn a share of the Big Ten regular-season title. Gard was named Big Ten Coach of the Year before the postseason was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and, after the title-clinching victory at Indiana, Gard brought his three assistants — Tucker, Joe Krabbenhoft and Dean Oliver — to his postgame news conference and became emotional when speaking about everything the staff and team had overcome during a trying campaign.

Tucker came back for a second season as assistant, but the Journal Sentinel reported he continued to try to undermine Gard and be a disruptive force in the locker room. Among the allegations was Tucker told a player “to ignore the coaching points of a fellow assistant in charge of that player’s position group.”

The Badgers, among the Big Ten favorites when the 2020-21 season began, finished in sixth place with a 10-10 record. Gard was aware of Tucker’s plot to get him fired by this point, according to the Journal Sentinel report, and decided not to retain Tucker for a third season despite Tucker applying for the permanent position.

Gard instead went with another former UW player, Sharif Chambliss.

“I chose to return to Wisconsin to be a part of a greater mission to influence, inspire and empower the next generation of student-athletes, while also creating opportunities to further the Wisconsin idea,” Tucker said in his statement. “During my time as the Director of Engagement, I not only upheld my duties, but also assisted with recruitment efforts across a number of sports. I took great pride in being a servant to the Madison community and ethos.

“I did not return to Madison to coach basketball — coaching was never part of my outlook, plan or goals. However, when I was approached and asked to step in and take over coach Moore’s position on an interim basis, I accepted the offer. I made that decision for no other reason than to honor coach Moore, someone who was and continues to be extremely impactful and close to me and my family. Central to coach Moore’s leadership philosophy is inspiration through diversity and unity. I have only worked to advance that goal.”

Tucker in April was among the nine people named by UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank to a selection committee to find the next athletic director following Alvarez’s retirement. That turned out to be Chris McIntosh, Alvarez’s longtime lieutenant.

The Journal Sentinel reported Tucker tried to steer the committee toward hiring Northern Illinois athletic director Sean Frazier with the hopes Frazier would fire Gard and appoint Tucker as UW’s coach.

In late June, an anonymous person emailed the State Journal a link to a recording from a meeting during the season that included Gard, his assistants and the seven seniors on the team. The 37-minute audio file was only a portion of a meeting that lasted two hours, according to some people in that room, and the entirety of that clip was Gard being blasted by each of the seniors.

Tucker didn’t return a message for comment as that story was being reported by the State Journal, one of several times from the end of the 2020-21 season to this week he ignored requests to comment via either text message or through social media.

“Throughout my life, both personally and professionally, I give the very best of myself,” Tucker said. “To my wife as a husband, to my sons as a father, to my school and teammates as a student athlete, to my franchise and teammates as a professional athlete and to the city of Madison and its student body as a member of its athletic office. I have consistently proven myself to be loyal, trustworthy and a role model to those around me. My reputation precedes me and remains unshakable amidst the accusations, media spins, speculations, bullying, misrepresentations and fabrications I now face.

“For that reason, I speak now only to confirm to those who support and respect me that I am a man of honor and integrity and would never jeopardize either for a dollar or a title. Although this has been a disheartening experience, my family and I are very happy to start our next chapter and don’t despise our time at UW-Madison, as we have forged lifelong bonds and made many great memories.

“I can only hope that those that remain at UW-Madison continue to support the student-athletes and the athletic program in developing champions and leaders.”

Contact Jim Polzin at jpolzin@madison.com.

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