Kevin Borseth enters his fifth season in his second stint at Green Bay this year. Since his return, he has lead the Phoenix to four Horizon League regular-season championships, as he did for most of the years he was Green Bay head coach before, from 1998-2007. He has taken the Phoenix to postseason play each year he has been there. Borseth’s career coaching record, including five years as Michigan’s coach, is 410-158.
He left to take the Wolverines job because he’d always dreamed of coaching in the Big Ten. Once there, however, he said he found “that walk of life didn’t fit him very well.” Since returning to Green Bay, he said he is happy and his mind is clear.
Borseth and his wife have three daughters and two sons, all born in Green Bay.
Your story is a bit unusual in that you found success at a mid-major school, went to pursue your dream to coach in the Big 10, and ultimately decided it wasn’t for you. What was it about that “walk of life,” as you were quoted, that didn’t suit you, and why is it good to be back at Green Bay?
Bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better. It was a thrill and a dream to coach in the Big Ten. Coaching takes a lot of time, and sometimes it’s overwhelming. The biggest portion of coaching duties now is in recruiting. To be able to recruit the people you want in your program, you have to spend a lot of time finding out if it’s the right match. At Green Bay we have a smaller area that we draw interest from, and as a result we monitor the progress of players and get to know them. In big conferences, the whole world is open to you. How do you track a kid in Oklahoma or Australia and getting to know them is a bit more complicated.
From a life standpoint, I like being closer to home and close to my roots.
You have a consistent record of making it to either the NCAA Tournament, first or second round, or the WNIT. What are your goals for the program?
Every team wants to get to the Big Dance. In our case, we have to win our conference or conference tournament, so that’s something we shoot for every year. It’s a process you have to go through and you don’t want to skip any steps along the way. The process throughout the season is an important one. You don’t realize how quickly the years pass.
Day to day, we try to be as good as we can possibly be.
Why did you get into coaching? What do you love about it?
It was a natural process for me. I was a pied piper when I was younger, as the kid organizing the sand lot kickball, baseball and basketball games. I graduated from college with a degree in business, and worked in that field for four years when I got a volunteer job coaching. One thing lead to another and I got a job coaching at Michigan Tech. I have been fortunate to have had a lot of good things happen to me: players have been healthy and I’ve able to work with some great coaches during my career.
How do you define success in basketball?
Who am I talking to? It depends on who’s defining it. If I’m a fan I define success by winning. From the outside looking in, it’s different.
Student education, social well-being and athletic involvement is what matters. Communication is very different now than it used to be. But at the end of the day, if we produce a student athlete that is well-rounded when they come out and have a chance to succeed in life, then we’ve succeeded.
Winning and losing is most important in the corporate world, and I get it, I understand it. But I don’t know at the end of the day as a parent if I’d accept that at a college.
How do you motivate players?
I worked for a Hall of Fame coach early in my career who was my high school football coach, and every year he told the kids that they would win a banner. I asked him why and he said kids will go to great lengths to prove you right. Kids want to grow, they don’t want (a coach) who’s going to belittle them. The star needs to be challenged as does the kid on the bench, If you give them direction, they’ll try hard to please you. Give them direction and show them the way and they’re motivated to go towards it. If not they’ll get hammered down. Once you get that culture in your program, it becomes something that the upper classmen pass down to the newcomers.
How do your players describe playing for you? How would you characterize your coaching style?
I would hope they’d feel I was treating them fairly, and teaching them good things. I’m very conscious of that. I’m conscious of making the players feel important, because they are. I’d hope they felt like I treated them with respect, as I try to be a good teacher and give them direction. If they don’t follow the proper direction I try to get them on track so we’re not blindly grasping at straws. I bark a lot but I don’t bite a lot. I’m verbal, but I’ve not called a player out and made them feel unworthy.
What’s something most people don’t know about you?
Less is more. I’m outdoorsy. I don’t mind grocery shopping – those kinds of things ease the mind.