By Jon Krawczynski
AP Sports Writer
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota has fired basketball coach Pam Borton a day after a loss to South Dakota State in the women's NIT, ending the Golden Gophers' fifth straight season without an NCAA tournament appearance.
"Pam has had many successful seasons at the University of Minnesota, but we feel it is time to look at another leader to position this program for long-term success," athletic director Norwood Teague said in a statement issued by the school. "We are grateful to Pam and her staff for their hard work and dedication to this University, our students and the entire Minnesota community. We wish Pam well."
Ten years ago, Borton guided the Gophers to their only Final Four. She led the school to NCAA tournament appearances in six of her first seven seasons. But a program she helped revive has not made the NCAAs since 2009.
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.
In 2006, following a first-round ouster from the NCAA tournament, starters Jamie Broback, Natasha Williams and Liz Podominick, reserves Brittney Davis and Lauren Lacey, and assistant coach Dave Stromme left the program within three weeks after the end of the season. A five-week investigation into the departures by the athletic department declared poor communication the cause of "misunderstandings" and "feelings of mistrust" among coaches and players, but Maturi reaffirmed his support for Borton.
Two weeks before Maturi retired from his position as AD in June 2012, he gave Borton a two-year contract extension that the university never publicly announced. But over the four seasons, as attendance continued to decrease, the Gophers went a combined 62-66, with one WNIT appearance and one entry in the WBI tournament, which they won in 2012.
Behind Big Ten scoring leader Rachel Banham, the Gophers finished 8-8 in conference play. But they went 0-8 against the top five teams in the Big Ten, keeping them out of the NCAA tournament again and essentially sealing Borton's fate.
Assistant coach Kelly Roysland will serve as the interim head coach until a permanent replacement is named.