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April 05, 2010 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily, 2010-04-05

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4B - April 5,2010 TeihaDi-mhaado

The Michigan Daily -- michigandaily.com

Michigan women's basketball coach
Kevin Borseth would have been happy
coaching a high school team. But now
in his fourth head coaching position,
at Michigan, he is turning yet anoth-
er women's basketball program into a
ack in the '50ssin Bessemer, Mich.,
they kept the baseball and football
fields locked during offseason and
when there weren't organized
competitions going on. The kids
who called the small Upper Pen-
insula town (population 2,148)
home dug holes under the
fence to get in.
The basketball gym
was always locked up,
too. The kids of Bessemer
wore "choppers" - gloves
with the fingers cut off
- to keep their hands
warm when they
played outside dur-
ing winter. While
the choppers
provided com-
fort, they hurt
dexterity and
limited what
the children
could do with
the basketball.
That's why
Michigan women's bas-
ketball coach Kevin Borseth
insists he never learned to shoot.
In late February, sitting in the
plush maize and blue coaches'
locker room in Crisler Arena,
Borseth couldn't pinpoint
exactly how he wound up
with a Division I coach-
ing job at a nationally
renowned university.
"One thing led td anoth-
er, and here I am," he said.
"I'd explain that but one
thing just kind of led to
"I think there's a
gauge inside of us that
says I want to be the
best at what I do," he

said."A long time ago someone gave us a pat on the
back because we did something good and we never
forgot that.
"It's like the horse who got the sugar cube. Peo-
ple gravitate towards doing well because they get
pats on the back for it. And I don't think my career
is different than anybody else's is."
Falling in love with the game
As a third grader, Borseth had his first experi-
ence in a big game.
Borseth's recreational league team split up to
scrimmage at halftime of a high school basket-
ball game. The aspiring youngsters had dribbled
around chairs to practice fundamentals for their
big game.
For the young Borseth, nothing was bigger than
that moment.
"It was huge," he said. "It was the NBA cham-
That exciting atmosphere helped fuel Borseth's
love for basketball, a sport he continued to play
through high school along with baseball and foot-
Bessemer High School saw four head football
coaches and an unimpressive record during Bors-
eth's time as quarterback. Pat Gallinagh, an All-
American defensive lineman for Michigan State
in the 1960s, took over as head coach in Borseth's
senior year.
Trying to get the program back on track, Gal-
linagh added a Saturday morning practice to the
team's weekly schedule, which already included
two-a-days Monday through Friday.
"Just about the whole team boycotted the prac-
tice, but Kevin went and talked to all of them and
got them back out for the team so the program
didn't disintegrate," Gallinagh said in a phone
The next fall, Borseth went to Lake Superior
State for college, instead of a place like Michi-
gan, where according to Gallinagh, he could have
played if he had had consistent coaching through-
out high school. But he stayed close to home and
played basketball, his favorite sport.
A decade after playing outdoor basketball dur-
ing frigid Michigan winters as a kid, Borseth grad-
uated and moved back home, where he finally got
his hands on the keys to the local gym when he
volunteered to watch over the kids playing there.
It was at that gym in Bessemer where Borseth
realized his passion for coaching.
With the keys, the gym was his. He would shoot
around until the kids that came to practice on Sat-
urday mornings showed up. Then he would give
them pointers.
He wanted them to have that same memory he
had, when he scrimmaged at the high school game,
so he prepared them for their owntime in the lime-
Around the same time, he began working as the
assistant football and baseball coach at his alma
mater, Bessemer High. Gallinagh recalls Borseth's
ability to yell at his players without making them

upset. A few years later, it was clear his tactic was
"The two seasons he coached with me we were
something like 19 or 20-3, so we had really good
years," Gallinagh said.
While he got his feet wet in football coaching,
Borseth was also testing his mettle as a basketball
player in a local league. His team traveled region-
ally to play different teams, one of those at a nearby
low-security prison.
When he later lost his job in the homebuilding
industry as interest rates soared and his employer
was forced to close its doors in1983, he found a new
job at Gogebic Community College in Ironwood,
Mich. Borseth taught business classes, coached the
women's basketball team and served as an assis-
tant coach for the men's team.
In his five years as head coach for the women's
team at Gogebic, he built a program from scratch.
When Borseth took the job, the women's team
had two players. It was up to him to recruit the rest
from the classes he taught. After starting 0-7 that
first year, Borseth's team finished 11-11. In his last
two years combined, his teams went 35-14.
"That first year was probably the most fun I've
ever had coaching," Borseth said. "All you do is
learn to play games and play against programs
that probably have the same level of commitment
by their athletes as your programs and that isn't a
great deal."
Another part of his job was to supervise the
same prison gym he had traveled to as a player, at
Camp Ojibway. He was there every night just to
keep things in order, but took it upon himself to
give the prisoners some basketball pointers.
"I made it like hockey where you couldn't pass
too many (lines) because (the prisoners) would just
get the rebound and throw it to the other end of the
court," Borseth said. "I made them pass the ball up
the court."
Movin' on up
In 1988, Borseth landed his first job at a four-
year institution, coaching the women's team at
Division II Michigan Tech, a team that had never
experienced a winning season. Borseth had his
work cut out for him.
He wasted no time turning the Huskies into a
national powerhouse, taking them to the NCAA
Division II Championships seven times in his 11
years at the helm, amassing a 225-97 record.
Borseth went to the University of Wisconsin-
Green Bay in 1999 for his first Division I job. The
fanbase doubled in his nine years as head coach at
Wisconsin-Green Bay, according to athletic direc-
tor Ken Bothof, partly because fans came to watch
his one-of-a-kind sideline demeanor, something
that's attracted attention everywhere he's been.
From anywhere in the stands - even at Crisler,
which seats 13,800 - one can look toward the
bench and Borseth will be pacing in front ofit, yell-
ing out to his athletes. He is often so loud you can
hear him shouting but can't make out quite what.
And all the while he is flailing his arms like an

orchestra conductor.
"I think our fans always found him in his own
way to be entertaining," Bothof said.
"When our fans saw the passion that he had for
the game, I think that led to great atmosphere at
our games," he said. "Our fans fed off of that. They
talked about how it was fun to come to games
because obviously we were winning but they also
loved to watch some of (Borseth's) actions through
the game as well."
The arena was sold out for most games and
the girls rarely lost. But that didn't mean Borseth
wasn't yelling at the top of his lungs. Under Bors-
eth, the Lady Phoenix won nearly 78 percent of
their games, never losing more than three confer-
ence games in any of his nine seasons at the helm.
The program was 24 years old when Borseth
took charge and Green Bay had seen the postsea-
son only three times in its history, including an
NCAA run that took place the season prior to his
Borseth didn't skip a beat, leading Green Bay to
the NCAA Tournament in his first two years and
five more times in his seven remaining years with
the program. The team never missed out on post-
season action with Borseth in charge, playing in
the Women's National Invitational Tournament
the two years it didn't go dancing.
Fans could expect to be greeted by him at the
door on their way in. And he and his family waited
customarily on the court if fans wanted to touch
base after games.
Wisconsin-Green Bay loved Borseth, and Bors-
eth loved Wisconsin-Green Bay. He started getting
attention from elsewhere, but he wasn't going to
leave for just anything.
Borseth turned down a head coaching job at the
University of Colorado. But when Michigan offered
him the head coaching position for its women's
basketball team in 2007, it looked like the dream of
a lifetime could become a reality.
"He wanted to be at the University of Michi-
gan all his life," Gallinagh said. "I think if he had
a chance to playthere he would have jumped at it."
Borseth identified with Michigan colors from an
early age, sporting a blue and gold jersey as quar-
terback for Bessemer High. He remembers look-
ing up to Bessemer alumni Ralph Heikkanen, an
All American for the Wolverines in the 190s; and
Reuben Kelto, Michigan's MVP in 1941.
"It'slikelivinga dream,"said Borseth, whomade
his first trip to Ann Arbor for a Michigan-Ohio
State football game in the '70s. "And to the people
in my area, it's absolutely off the charts. They are
all Michigan fans, too. That's what we do."
A year to build on
Borseth played football for four coaches in four
years at Bessemer High School. And while that's no
easy task, especially for a quarterback who must
adjust to a new style every year as a result - it's
not easy for a coach either. Gallinagh had a lot of
work to do when he took the head football job at
Bessemer Borseth's senior year. The program had

been in shambles in recent years, according to Gal-
linagh, who recalls that the team had won maybe
two games in the previous three years.
But the Bessemer football program had a history
of excellence. And with a steady coach again, the
program quickly rebounded.
When Borseth arrived at Michigan three years
ago, he didn't have the luxury of a strong tradition.
During these last three years, he has been working
to put his stamp on the program.
"Most of (Michigan's opponents) had penciled
in a victory before they even went out on the court
to take a shot," Gallinagh said. "That's why they
were able to pull so many upsets in (Borseth's) first
year there."
In the three seasons before Borseth came to Ann
Arbor, the Wolverines won four conference games
In his inaugural year, Michigan was a.500 team
and got past the first round of the Big Ten tourna-
"The problem was when he first got in there I
don't think anybody took University of Michigan
women's basketball seriously and now everybody
takes them seriously," Gallinagh said. "They've
upset a number of teams so far since he's been there
and that's the way you build a program. A little bit
at a time you pull an upset."
"I've done so well for so long that I never felt
the other side of it," Borseth said. "And now I feel
the other side of it. It's not fun. Now we are trying
to build a program where we can win conference
championships and get NCAA bids here as well.
And we are at a national university where the sky's
the limit."
Despite this newfound and rather unexpected
success this season, his first three years in the Big
Ten haven't been all roses. After a-better-than-
expected first year in which the team went 9-9 in
conference, 17-20 overall and made a run to the
quarterfinals of the WNIT, Borseth didn't sleep
much last season, whenthe team ended the confer-
ence schedule 3-15.
In that first year with the program, Borseth
gained some fame that he might have done with-
out. When his team gave up an 18-point lead to
Wisconsin to lose by two, he learned firsthand
what it means to be on a national stage.
In the postgame press conference, Borseth's fists
slammed, his papers flew and he made his frustra-
tion over what he saw as an unacceptable lack of
offensive rebounds known to a room of reporters.
While his conductor-like demeanor shows his pas-
sion and intensity for the game, failing to control
his emotions in the filmed press conference made
him the laughingstock of college sports for a brief
But as he begins to make a name for the Michi-
gan program, next time his name is being talked
about nationally, it will be on a sweeter note.
After 25 years, he had coached at the commu-
nity college, Division II and DivisionI levelsbefore
coming to Ann Arbor. And his resume prior to
Michigan was looking pretty snazzy - 70 percent

of the time his team came out on top.
He was warned that he would have to get usedto
losing more atthe next level, butnothing could pre-
pare him for the level of competition in the Big Ten.
"We aren't over the hump yet," he said at the end
of February with two regular-season games left.
"We've stillgot aways to go with our program. We
are tryingto build a base so we are a credible wom-
en's basketball program for all the young aspiring
athletes that want to be able to play for a program
that's got some tradition."
This year's squad, in Borseth's third season,
beat expectations to go 8-10 in the regular season
before advancing to the quarterfinals in the Big
Ten Tournament. Considered on the bubble for the
NCAA Tournament, Michigan ultimately settled
for a WNIT bid. The Wolverines proved them-
selves, blowing out four opponents en route to the
Final Four of the WNIT to make program history.

And Borseth believes his team's WNIT run acts
as a good building block toward the national com-
petitor he hopes to make the Wolverines.
"A year like this hopefully makes some people
stand up and take a look at our program and say
hey, they are for real, these guys are for real," Bors-
eth said after the 76-59 loss to Miami in the Final
Four that ended the Wolverines' season. "I think
years like this hopefully we can use to build on."
It hasn't been an easy three years, but this sea-
son's success is just the beginning of what could be
the most successful Borseth era - on his biggest
stage yet. Every day he goes to work, every time he
puts on his navy sports coat with a maize interior
to pace the sideline, he is reminded that he is living
his dream. There is nowhere else he would rather
Borseth's still got the keys to the gym, but this
one seats 13,800.

Michigan head coach Kevin Borseth during the 78-52 win over Syracuse in the WNIT quartfinals at Crisler Arena
March 28, 2010.
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