MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Pam Borton took the Minnesota women's basketball program to heights unseen before when she guided the Gophers to their first Final Four in 2004. That was 10 years ago, and a five-year NCAA tournament drought proved too much for her to overcome.
Borton was fired Friday, a day after a loss to South Dakota State in the women's NIT.
"This decision is a future decision," athletic director Norwood Teage said. "It's not based on really what's been done in the past. I looked at who we are and felt like we needed new leadership in the future."
Borton is the winningest coach in program history with a 236-152 record in 12 seasons at the school. The Gophers went 22-13 this season, their most victories since 2004-05.
"I am grateful for my 12 seasons at the University of Minnesota," Borton said in a statement issued by the school. "This is a great state and university, and I have enjoyed becoming a part of this community."
It was an up-and-down tenure in Minneapolis for Borton, who helped make women's basketball relevant again in Minnesota, but also dealt with a mass exodus of players from the program midway through her tenure.
The program was a mess in 2001 when coach Cheryl Littlejohn was fired amid findings of major NCAA rules violations. Brenda Oldfield, now Brenda Frese, engineered a remarkable turnaround with a 22-8 record, a significant spike in attendance and advancement to the second round of the NCAA tournament. She left for Maryland after one year, though, and athletic director Joel Maturi picked Borton, then a Boston College assistant, as her replacement. Borton had four seasons on her resume as the head coach at Vermont prior to that.
With the foundation set, and dazzling point guard Lindsay Whalen drawing crowds and leading the team, the Gophers reached the NCAA regional semifinals in Borton's first year. Then came the Final Four in season two, followed by a return to the Sweet 16 the year after that. But while the Gophers would go to three more NCAA tournaments over the next four seasons, they slipped a little without Whalen and her standout sidekick, Janel McCarville, both of whom helped lead the Minnesota Lynx to a WNBA championship last year.