In an unforeseen move yesterday, Michigan women’s basketball coach Kevin Borseth resigned after five seasons at the helm.
In his final season, the Wolverines compiled a 20-11 record, which was enough to earn their first NCAA Tournament bid since 2001.
The question that remains is, why the sudden departure?
When Borseth arrived in Ann Arbor in 2007, Michigan had won just 35 games in the previous four seasons. Along with the losing mentality that had become entrenched, the Wolverines also hadn’t made a single postseason during this stretch.
But in his first year, he took Michigan to the WNIT and his five-year tenure saw four postseason berths.
With this season’s team the first composed of all Borseth recruits, it looked like the Wolverines had made giant strides. Going into next season, they were looking to stay a contender, unlike the previous decade.
When senior guard Courtney Boylan said, “Our program has changed so much since coach Borseth came here,” she wasn’t joking. He had sculpted the Wolverines into his own team, and that didn’t happen overnight. There were growing pains — there always are when a new coach implements a new system.
But it seemed the players had finally adjusted, and the offense and defense were developing their own identity apart from former Michigan teams.
That is, until Wednesday.
The world — well, the women’s basketball team, at least — came crashing down with the announcement of his resignation and return to his former job at Wisconsin Green-Bay. He had spent nine seasons there prior to coming to Ann Arbor and advanced to the post-season in all nine of those.
Why he chose to leave such a successful program wasn’t a big surprise in 2007, as the Phoenix are a mid-major team and the Big Ten was a step up nationally. He reiterated this on Thursday in his inaugural press conference at Green Bay.
“(My family and I) left here five years ago to pursue a dream, and it was a dream of mine to go coach in the Big Ten,” he said.
So why is he going back?
In a sense, it’s a demotion. He left Green Bay for his “dream job” but is now stepping away from that job. In the press conference, he addressed his reasons for going back, and they were simple — family, peace of mind and happiness.
A native of Bessemer, Mich. — just three hours north of Green Bay — his and his wife’s families live much closer to Green Bay than Ann Arbor. His children were also raised there, so they’re practically going back home.
But happiness and peace of mind are two completely different aspects, and he went into depth on those two issues.
“Any time you lead a program, you put pressures on yourself to do extremely well,” Borseth said. “I put pressures on myself to do well, and I don’t know if it’s the demands, or what the case might be, but peace of mind is important.
“Happiness is important, and you can never question a person’s happiness. That’s something that is unquestionable. From that standpoint, health is important. I told my players yesterday, ‘If I keep going on and am not happy, I may not make it past tomorrow.’ ”
No one’s faulting him for doing what he believes is the right thing — even if it means possibly sending Michigan into women’s basketball limbo, which unfortunately isn’t that unfamiliar of territory.
Though some might remember him as the coach who had the famous “rant of 2008,” when he blew up during a press conference following a loss, his legacy is deeper than that. He turned around a faltering program, and that in itself is an accomplishment.
Borseth might have left suddenly and unexpectedly, but there certainly doesn’t seem to be hard feelings between the current players and Borseth.
“I want to wish Coach Borseth the best and thank him for everything,” junior forward Sam Arnold tweeted yesterday following his announcement. “He’s an amazing coach and an even better person!”
What’s next for the Wolverines is unknown. But with the offseason already in full swing, they need to find a coach soon if they’re going to win at all next season.