CHICAGO (AP) When Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan announced his plan to retire after this season, Michigan State's Tom Izzo called with a message straight from the heart.
''I called him a wimp,'' Izzo said. ''The first time I called him up, I said, `You're bailing out? You chicken?'''
Well, he might not be bailing just yet.
Ryan reiterated Thursday at the Big Ten's annual media day that he is not ruling out coaching beyond this year, after he initially announced in June that he planned to retire at the end of the season. Two months later, he left the door open to staying on beyond that - and he is keeping it there for now.
''I haven't made up my mind on anything other than coaching these guys,'' Ryan said.
The more immediate issue is keeping pace in a fiercely competitive conference that boasted two Final Four teams last season in Michigan State and Wisconsin.
Maryland comes in eyeing a championship run with Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year Melo Trimble back after winning 28 games in its first season in the Big Ten.
''The approach is still the same,'' Trimble said. ''It's still a grind. I think we still have to live up to the hype. I think we have a pretty good group of guys that are all focused on the same thing, which is winning. I think we just have to worry about the process and not what people are saying about us.''
Michigan State, Ohio State and Iowa all figure to be strong. And - who knows - maybe this is the season Northwestern finally reaches the NCAA Tournament.
''I don't know if the league has been this good from top to bottom in my eight years, just looking at it,'' Indiana coach Tom Crean said. ''Again, it's on paper, a lot of things have to play out. But the Big Ten is far and away - when you look at the teams coming back, the coaches coaching the teams, star power of the young guys, the versatility of the teams and the experience of the teams, this is as good as it's been. I can't imagine there's a better one in the country.''
Wisconsin has preseason all-conference picks Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig back. But the Badgers lost two first-round NBA picks in Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker, cornerstone players on teams that combined for 66 wins the past two years. And it's not clear how much longer their coach will be sticking around.
Will Ryan's 15th season at Wisconsin be his last?
''That other part was said in the summer because I timed it that way,'' said Ryan, who is 357-125 with the Badgers. ''I didn't want to put pressure on the AD or the administration or anything else. And it was to let people know, look - my staff and everybody else - I'm not doing this forever. Nobody is. But I want to, when I step in the other direction, say, `OK, at least I made a statement. At least I let my feelings be known. And that was my way of seeing things. You can judge that all you want, but I'm in the gym now. And that's right where I belong.''
Koenig heard a rumor that Ryan was retiring before he made the announcement and ''didn't believe it for a second.'' So when his coach stated his intentions, he was surprised. But it would not shock Koenig, either, if Ryan stayed beyond this season.
''I didn't know what he would do without his teams,'' Koenig said.
Wisconsin and the Big Ten would not be quite the same without Ryan. Michigan coach John Beilein called Ryan ''one of the great things about college basketball.''
''If he comes back another year, it'll just be another time to go to Madison and get yelled at,'' Izzo said.