Gophers fire Borton, move in new direction

Pam Borton went 236-152 in 12 years as the coach of the women’s team.

Minnesota women’s basketball coach Pam Borton has a 201-107 mark in 10 seasons as a head coach including a 6-year, 132-61 record with the Gophers. Under Bortons’s belt at the U is a Final Four appearance in 2004 three Sweet 16 seasons since her arrival in 2002.

Ashley Goetz

Minnesota women’s basketball coach Pam Borton has a 201-107 mark in 10 seasons as a head coach including a 6-year, 132-61 record with the Gophers. Under Bortons’s belt at the U is a Final Four appearance in 2004 three Sweet 16 seasons since her arrival in 2002.

Jack Satzinger

Pam Borton has been fired as head coach for the Gophers women’s basketball team, the University announced Friday.

“We have extremely high expectations for our women’s basketball program,” athletics director Norwood Teague said at a press conference Friday. “Our goal is to be the best women’s basketball program both in the Big Ten and at a national level.”

Those high expectations pushed Borton, who hasn’t led the Gophers to the NCAA tournament since 2009, out of a job.

Borton has been at Minnesota since 2002 and took the Gophers to their only Final Four appearance in program history in 2004. Her record was 236-152 in 12 seasons with the program.

The University has to pay Borton $335,000 to buy out her contract.

Teague met with Borton Friday to inform her of the decision.

“I am grateful for my 12 seasons at the University of Minnesota,” Borton said in a release. “This is a great state and University, and I have enjoyed becoming a part of this community.”

Teague will conduct a national search, from which he expects a significant amount of interest, and said he has a “pool” of coaches to choose from.

“This program has succeeded in the past,” he said. “We’ve proven we can win. There are so many intangibles that make this a terrific job that raise those expectations.”

Kelly Roysland, an assistant coach and one of Borton’s former players with the Gophers, has been named interim coach. Teague said he didn’t want to single out any candidates and wouldn’t say whether Roysland will be considered for head coach.

Teague said he won’t rule out candidates without head coaching experience, like Roysland and possible candidate Lindsay Whalen — another of Borton’s former players. It’s unclear if Whalen, who signed a three-year contract extension with the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx in September, would be interested in the job.

Teague noted that prior experience with the Gophers could impact his decision.

“It helps. That always helps whenever you’re recruiting a coach,” he said. “I like when they do have that, but it’s by no means a deal-breaker.”

Teague said he hopes to finish the coaching search as soon as possible and is looking for three major traits in a good candidate: leadership, an ability to recruit locally and nationally, and communication skills.

Teague said he met with current players on the team Friday afternoon to break the news.

“They have relationships there, and there’s hurt when that happens,” he said.

Wagner won’t waver

Teague said he also called Carlie Wagner, the program’s top committed recruit, before addressing the media. ESPN ranked Wagner 54th in this year’s recruiting class.

“[We] had a great conversation and will keep communicating with her, definitely,” he said. “You have to do that; you want to make them feel at ease with what’s going on.”

Wagner’s mother, Jane Wagner, told the Minnesota Daily that Teague called Carlie a “top priority.” She also said Carlie is upset and loves Borton “like a second mom.”

Still, all signs point to Carlie Wagner wearing a Gophers uniform in the near future. Jane Wagner said even after hearing the news, her daughter went shopping for maroon and gold apparel.

“She’s a Minnesota girl, and as far as I know, that’s the way it’s going to stay,” Jane Wagner said. “I think we’re good. … She’s just sad and needs to process.”

Borton was abroad

A team spokesperson confirmed that Borton was recently out of the country and on the recruiting trail before being fired, suggesting she was still engaged as head coach.

Borton had success with international players, bringing in Amanda Zahui B. from Sweden. She set the Big Ten and Minnesota single-season rebounding records in the Gophers’ 70-62 loss to South Dakota State in the WNIT on Thursday night.  

But even with a standout at center, coupled with the Big Ten’s leading scorer in Rachel Banham, Borton couldn’t get back to the NCAA tournament.

“You want to get in the NCAA tournament,” Teague said. “We look forward to finding a candidate that will build a consistent and continued successful program here.”