As He Heads Out, Let’s Remember Kevin Borseth’s Remarkable Entrance

The humble mid-major doesn’t get much love in women’s basketball, but Kevin Borseth got plenty of it this morning when the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay held a press conference to announce Borseth’s retirement from the head coaching job he held for 21 non-consecutive years at the school. In those 21 years, he never logged a losing season. He pointed out, before Green Bay’s first round game against Tennessee in this year’s NCAA tournament, that while the legendary Lady Vols held the active record for consecutive winning seasons in D-I women’s basketball, the Green Bay Phoenix were in second place, with 48. In between two stints at Green Bay, Borseth coached at Michigan. So among the people he thanked at this morning’s ceremony, the celebration of a 37-year coaching career, was the Michigan athletic director who “could have ended my career after my little temper tantrum on ESPN.”

Well, since he brought it up, I was glad to see Borseth in the news this morning, because it gave me occasion to revisit the temper tantrum in question, an infamous 2008 postgame presser from the first of five seasons he spent in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines had just lost 69-67 to Wisconsin after leading by 20 in the first half. To Borseth, there was no mystery in Michigan’s meltdown—he made that clear in his own meltdown. YouTube tells you which segment of a given video is “most replayed,” and that honor, naturally, goes to the literal first second of this press conference, which Borseth tumbled into a la Kramer before breaking the game down.

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This ode to offensive rebounding (“It came down to offensive rebounds! The whole game was offensive rebounds!”)—or complaint about officiating, or whatever it was—didn’t end Borseth’s career. Nor did his players mind it much. From the AP story after Michigan’s next game:

“I support Coach Borseth 100 percent,” said senior guard Janelle Cooper. “I heard what happened, and I turned my phone off, because I knew everyone would want to talk to me about it, and I didn’t want to deal with it. We love Coach, and we’re behind him all the way.”

Michigan’s other senior starter, guard Krista Clement, said she hadn’t heard much from her friends and family.

“I don’t think they have a lot of TV access in the Upper Peninsula,” joked the St. Ignace native. “I’m not sure anyone saw it.”

Borseth himself is a Yooper, hailing from about as far west as you can get in the state of Michigan before you hit Wisconsin. Those roots shaped his career. He started coaching at a community college in an old iron mining town, and in 2012, he left Michigan for his old job at Green Bay, where he’d be closer to his parents. “Every time I’d go back up north, it was like a 10-hour drive and it seemed like I got a speeding ticket every time I went there, somewhere around Gaylord. So it was starting to cost me money, too,” he told the Detroit News in 2018.

In 2019, UW-Green Bay began an annual Yooper Night in his honor, featuring flannel giveaways and $5 pasties. You can tell a lot about a person by where they’re from. You can tell a lot about where a person is from by their postgame freakouts. Others find themselves drawn to the poor sheet of paper, to “totally, totally, totally, totally, totally” or to the perfect “WHAT ELSE DO YOU WANNA KNOW?” But what makes this the great Upper Midwestern rant, to me, is its ending. The adrenaline wears off, and Borseth regains himself. “I am not going to sleep,” he mutters, haunted, before apologizing and heading out.

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