Players shoulder blame in exodus

Matt Anderson

Losing six seniors seemed like it was going to make refiguring next year’s team hard enough for Minnesota’s women’s basketball coach Pam Borton.

Then, in the two weeks after the season ended, five players expected to be back for the 2006-2007 season announced they also would leave the team.

Sophomores Brittney Davis and Lauren Lacey announced March 24 their intentions to transfer.

Minnesota put out a news release April 3 that said star junior forward Jamie Broback won’t return. A day later junior forward Liz Podominick announced she was leaving the team to pursue her throwing career full-time in hopes of qualifying for the 2008 Olympics. And the day after that, Borton announced sophomore forward Natasha Williams will transfer from the program.

It has been an exodus of epic proportions. However, those who are clamoring for Borton to be fired are wrong. When you look at each departure individually, there seems to be nothing deeply wrong with the program Borton is running.

Podominick leaving to concentrate on shot put and discus full time is no fault of Borton’s. Podominick won the Big Ten discus and shot put titles last year in her redshirt freshman season with the track and field team.

On the court, Podominick averaged 8.3 points and 5.3 rebounds a game – solid numbers, but nothing approaching the caliber of her throwing numbers.

Even though Borton benched Broback for almost the entire second half of the Gophers’ NCAA Tournament loss to Washington, there seemed to be issues that went beyond basketball with the junior forward.

Broback’s high school coach Paul Goetz told the Pioneer Press on April 3, “I’m more worried about Jamie as a person. It’s disturbing to see her go through all these troubles.”

And judging from what Davis, Williams and Lacey told the Pioneer Press on Friday, selfishness and a sense of entitlement are at the root of the their transfers.

Williams, in her only comment about the situation (her father Franklyn has been willing to talk to anyone who owns a telephone), said Borton called the players selfish in November after the three inquired about playing time.

According to the article, this was the root of a rift between the three players and their coach. Davis also said she felt she deserved more playing time, despite totaling more turnovers than assists this season.

Being called selfish eventually leading to the transfers of three players? Worse things are said every day in Little League practices.

For that to cause a division and eventual transfers speaks more to the makeup of the players rather than any problem in coaching style, especially with a point guard agitating for more playing time whose assist-to-turnover ratio was 0.85 last season.

To be sure, five departures in the span of two weeks should result in a deeper-than-usual examination of the program. From this perspective, the examination looks like it contains more fluke occurrences and a snowballing effect rather than deep issues with Borton.

Borton’s track record before the past three weeks is very good. She took three-straight teams to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament and one team to the Final Four.

Borton has earned the chance to work through one rough spot – whether it’s her doing or if it’s beyond her control.

– Matt Anderson welcomes comments at [email protected]