Except for last year, Pam Borton and I have always had an “exit” interview at season’s end. We resumed our tradition last week, but at a local eatery this time and not in her coaches’ office.
“I had 12 great years [as Gopher women’s basketball coach]. Lots of memories. I met a lot of great people, a lot of great staff members and players,” said Borton, who was fired in March after a dozen seasons.
We didn’t avoid discussing what happened to her: “The decision was made two years ago,” Borton said. She was hired by one athletic director and canned by the current person in charge. “It was different,” she said comparing her last two seasons. “I think a lot of people miss Joel [Maturi],” the former Gopher AD. “He was a coach’s AD. He was a student-athlete’s AD. There wasn’t one student-athlete or coach who did not love Joel. They would’ve thrown themselves in front of a bus for Joel.”
She didn’t say as much, but at least on her part, there’s no likelihood of human sacrifices when it comes to present Minnesota AD Norwood Teague.
Borton continued, “I knew it was coming. I want to be at a place where I’m valued and at a place where I am respected…a place where there is a great culture and a great environment of trust [and] support.”
These days, Borton’s now busy with the nonprofit organization she started a couple of years ago called Team Woman Minnesota. “It’s a professional women’s organization where women support women,” she explained. “Since I’ve been away
from the university, I’ve had a lot more time.”
A recent leadership meeting with over 300 women in attendance encouraged her that she is on the right track. Team Women “is growing real quickly,” Borton said.
The inspiration for doing this came after a speaking engagement in May 2011, she recalled. “I thought it would be a luncheon with a bunch of women. I walk into the ballroom and there’s 1,500 people there, half men and half women, and I’m the keynote speaker. I was floored [afterwards] by people, saying, ‘We need to start something’ or ‘I have some ideas.’ All these ideas [eventually] fell on my lap and I started the organization.”
Borton said her dismissal brought out both the best and worst in people, including a sudden interview request from a local newspaper gossip columnist who never before talked to her. “There haven’t been a lot of people, maybe a handful, that when things didn’t go well when I got let go, they were nowhere to be found. This does not bother me, but I still have a lot of friends and a lot of people in the community that have stepped up even more. They have been extremely supportive.
“I think out of all the newspapers and radio stations and TV stations in the Twin Cities, that you and your paper have been extremely supportive of me as a person and as a coach,” the former coach said of the MSR. “You have been extremely supportive of our program and extremely fair.”
Borton added that she misses the late Kwame McDonald, the dean of Gopher women basketball coverage, as well.
Finally, coaching is temporarily in her past, but not necessarily out of her future. “I love what I’m doing now,” she concluded. “I’ve enjoyed some time off to reset myself and do some other things. You never know.”
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