Imagine a nicer, but not tamer, version of legendary basketball coach Bob Knight, and you might begin to understand Michigan coach Kevin Borseth.
The first-year Michigan coach has brought excitement back to the women’s basketball program, not just because the Wolverines are enjoying their first winning season in six years, but also because of Borseth’s intense sideline antics.
Borseth can be found on the Michigan bench breaking clipboards, jumping up and down or barking commands to his players.
Against Indiana Jan. 24, Borseth fell to the floor and pretended to have passed out in reaction to an official’s call.
“I sell the farm on every possession,” Borseth said. “Sometimes I see a call I don’t like and I’m animated about that.”
But when the officials make a call against the Wolverines (6-6 Big Ten, 13-9 overall), don’t expect Borseth to throw his chair across the floor. Instead, he just turns around and argues the call with a helpless person in the stands.
“They won’t let me talk to the referee,” Borseth said. “I have to talk to someone. They’re watching the same thing I’m watching.”
But Borseth isn’t one to dwell on the past. He quickly turns back to the action and encourages his players on the court.
“I coach play-to-play,” Borseth said. “You just can’t really rest on the fact you just made a basket and you can’t sulk on the fact you just gave one up.”
Sometimes, Borseth’s frustration with a play turns into anger. He said he thinks his temper could negatively impact his team. But his players, past and present, don’t see it that way.
In fact, Borseth’s former players miss the coach’s tantrums. Rachel Porath, a guard for Borseth when he coached at University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, recently complained that her new coach, Matt Bollant, doesn’t yell at her enough.
“If I turn the ball over or make a dumb mistake, I want someone to get on me so I don’t do it as often,” Porath told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The Wolverines also know their coach means no harm.
“When he’s intense, it’s not to intimidate us, it’s to get something out of us,” senior Janelle Cooper said. “It really lights a fire under us and gets us to go out there and play harder.”
Borseth’s biggest regret of the season is that he hasn’t been able to play more of his reserves, forcing them to listen to his constant chatter.
“I talk to the kids sitting there because they understand the things going on,” Borseth said. “The kids sitting down sometimes learn more than the kids on the court do.”
Borseth’s players say he has the same manner on and off the court, with some minor exceptions.
“In face-to-face conversation, he’s not flailing his arms all over the place,” senior Krista Clement said.
The choice to become a coach was easy for Borseth. What other job would allow him the freedom to jump up and down, yell at strangers and pull out the few hairs reamining on his head?
“I wasn’t very good at math and calculus,” Borseth said. “I didn’t get that stuff. But sports is an environment that I can understand – it’s fun.”
Borseth doesn’t know how to coach any other way. He’s intense. He’s passionate. And he’s getting the job done.