The University of Minnesota announced that they have fired Women's Basketball Coach Pam Borton Friday afternoon. Borton was fired after the Gophers finished their season last night losing to South Dakota State in the third round of the Women's NIT. Borton had just completed her twelfth season in charge of the Gopher program. She finished with a career record of 236-152.
Things started off well for Borton as she replaced Brenda Frese who lasted one season at Minnesota before she she took off for Maryland after the 2002-2003 season. Borton took a program with budding stars in Lindsay Whalen and Janel McCarvillle and advanced to the NCAA Tournament in her first four years behind the bench, including a memorable run to the Final Four in 2004. However after those two graduated, things started a slow decline for the Gopher program. Five players quit the team after the 2005-06 season, and many criticized Borton for her lack of interest/success in getting top Minnesota players to play for the Gophers such as Taylor Hill, Nia Coffey, Rebecca Dahlman and others.
A lack in fan interest in the Gopher program has not helped as attendance numbers have slipped from an average of nearly 9,700 in 2003-04 to just over 3,100 this past season.
Borton's length of tenure is cited by many Gopher fans as another one of former athletic director Joel Maturi's mistakes. Borton was on the rocks after three sub-par seasons after the Final Four run, however Maturi rewarded her with a new six year contract after making the NCAA Tournament in 2008. Again after a few poor years, as the Gophers have not been to the NCAA Tournament since 2009, Borton was rewarded with what many Gopher fans saw as a questionable two-year contract extension in 2012 right before Maturi left the AD position. That extension extended her contract through the 2015-16 season and will result in Borton receiving a $335,000 buyout of her contract.
Borton's departure will allow Norwood Teague to use his magic to attempt and find a game changer for the women's program just like it appears Richard Pitino is for the men's program. Whomever the new coach will be, he or she will have to immediately attempt to keep what is expected to be a fairly impressive recruiting class together, including guard Carlie Wagner from New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva High School who just broke her own single game scoring record in the State Tournament set in the 2013 tournament in the quarterfinals this season. Wagner who is being hyped as the best player to come into the program since Whalen would be a major loss for the Gophers if she decided to go elsewhere upon hearing about Borton. He or she will still have one season left of star Rachel Banham's University of Minnesota career, and with the emergence of Amanda Zhaui B in the middle for the Gophers will have a post-presence as well.
Assistant coach Kelly Roysland, a former Gophers player in the middle of Borton's tenure who has been an assistant for four years, was named acting head coach. However a nationwide search for Borton's full-time replacement will be beginning, if it has not already behind the scenes.
What say you Gopher fans? Right decision by Teague, or should she have been given another chance?