When I talked to former Gophers women’s basketball coach Pam Borton in March about her upcoming book, “On Point,” she said there were stories that would “surprise” people in Minnesota and that she was “pretty frank” in discussing her time with the Gophers.
The book is due out in early 2017 via Morgan James Publishing — a vanity publisher. A review copy of the book arrived this week, and Borton — as is her custom — was true to her word. While the book is ostensibly both a memoir and a guidepost for those looking to be successful leaders, the most immediately interesting parts for Gophers fans deal with the firing of Tubby Smith, the tenure of AD Norwood Teague and Borton’s highs and lows during her career. Some notable selections:
*Borton writes candidly of the 2012-13 season, after which she expected to be fired by Teague — who was in his first year on the job. Instead, it was Smith who was fired, after coaching the Gophers men’s team to an NCAA tournament victory.
“Tubby’s firing was a lesson in how not to do things,” Borton writes. “There wasn’t a communication plan in place and the conduct of the University was an embarrassment, full of disrespect, and a disgrace to a great man whose character, integrity and professionalism were unassailable.”
She describes the process in which Smith learned of his firing. “Tubby’s name was scrolling across ESPN’s sports-ticker at the bottom of the television screen and his phone was ringing off the hook before the athletic director gave him the news. … He was asked to vacate the building that day and his office belongings and boxes would be delivered to his house.”
The process shook the entire department, Borton writes. “We recognized what type of atmosphere lay ahead for the rest of the staff and department — and it proved to be true.”
*Borton also gets into more of her relationship with Teague, including her initial reaction to meeting him.
“My first impression was that of a used car salesman in a wrinkled suit. His executive presence was lacking and, perhaps, he appeared out of his league and maybe in over his head,” Borton writes.
She contrasted the work environments she says he experienced under Teague and previous AD Joel Maturi.
Of Maturi she writes, “Through a decade at the same institution and with the same athletic director, I was part of a healthy culture characterized by good leadership, a great support system, open communication and mentoring.”
Of Teague’s administration she writes, “The leadership style was coldly corporate and people were kept at arm’s-length. It was loud and clear that building relationships with coaches and student-athletes wasn’t part of the game plan. … My last two years, my new boss visited my office just once — on the day he fired me.”
*Of the team’s Final Four season in 2003-04, Borton writes it was “one of the highlights of my University of Minnesota coaching career. Our vision for accomplishing this goal was discussed in our first team meeting at the beginning of the year. From the time it escaped my team captain’s mouth, this was our team’s vision from day one.”
*Of the rocky 2005-06 season, after which five players transferred while six others graduated, Borton says there were a raft of problems, including, “student-athletes who where dealing with serious health issues, childhood sexual abuse and academic ineligibility. Overnight it became culturally acceptable to quit.”
She says she learned from that season — no thanks to us. “The media market in the Twin Cities is one of — if not the most — vicious media markets in the country,” she writes.
Borton says she over-delegated problems to another member of her staff. That, she writes, “put too much pressure on the staff, team, and individual players, and without good leadership within the team it backfired.”