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Marcus R. Fuller / St. Paul Pioneer Press, Published March 28 2014

Borton fired as Minnesota's head women's basketball coach

MINNEAPOLIS – After 12 seasons as women’s basketball coach at the University of Minnesota, Pam Borton was fired Friday following her fifth consecutive year missing the NCAA tournament.

Gophers athletics director Norwood Teague, who spoke to the team and recruits about his decision, said at a news conference Friday he didn’t know a specific thing that would have saved Borton’s job.

“I don’t know if it was one exact goal,” Teague said. “Certainly, I wanted to get into the NCAA tournament. You always want to do that, no matter what program you’re talking about. That was part of it. It was just an overall evaluation of the program.

“This decision is a future decision. It’s not based on what’s been done in the past. I looked at who we are and where we’re going. I really felt like we needed new leadership for the future.”

Borton, 48, had a 214-139 record with the Gophers, including 104-94 in Big Ten play. In her final game, Minnesota lost to South Dakota State 70-62 Thursday in the third round of the WNIT to finish the season with a

22-13 record.

Borton coached Minnesota to the NCAA Final Four in 2004, but the Gophers haven’t made the NCAA tournament since the 2008-09 season. They showed promise early this season, going 10-3 in nonconference play, but opened Big Ten play 3-6 before finishing in sixth place with a 9-9 record.

This season’s Gophers team featured junior guard Rachel Banham, the Big Ten’s leading scorer, and center Amanda Zahui B., the Big Ten freshman of the year. They were the first Minnesota teammates to be named All-Big Ten first team since Lindsay Whalen and Janel McCarville during the Final Four season in 2004.

Under Borton, the Gophers have a combined 31-52 Big Ten record the past five seasons.

“I am grateful for my 12 seasons at the University of Minnesota. This is a great state and university, and I have enjoyed becoming a part of this community,” Borton said in a statement. “I want to thank my players and staff over the years. We’ve accomplished a lot together, and they have made the experience truly special. I want to give a special thanks to our current players and staff. They are a great group, and I have enjoyed coaching and working with them every day.”

Assistant coach Kelly Roysland, a Fosston, Minn., native and former Gophers player, was named interim head coach. A national search will begin immediately.

Teague wouldn’t say whether Roysland would be interviewed as a possible full-time replacement for Borton. He already has a short list of candidates and a few qualities he’s looking for – similar to when he hired Richard Pitino to replace Tubby Smith as men’s basketball coach last year.

“Someone who is a recruiter – both locally and nationally,” Teague said. “Someone who can really get it done on the recruiting trail and attract great kids and great talent. Someone also who is a communicator. I know that’s a broad term. But it is a key component to any coach. Someone has to be a great communicator to 18- to-20-year-olds. And lastly, they have to be a great leader.”

In a surprise move two years ago, then-Minnesota athletics director Joel Maturi extended Borton’s contract just before he was replaced by Teague. He said later that he was made aware of the extension when he came on board but “I don’t know what happened there.”

The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.