UW-Green Bay coach Kevin Borseth looks on during a Horizon League game against Detroit at the Kress Events Center last month.
From all outward appearances, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay women's basketball coach Kevin Borseth hasn't changed a bit.
He's the same energetic, passionate, successful coach now as he was nearly six years ago when he left UWGB for his dream job at Michigan.
But on the inside, Borseth is wiser, happier and a man at peace with himself and his surroundings.
After spending five seasons coaching in the Big Ten, Borseth gladly accepted a pay cut last spring to get his old job back in Green Bay.
"You've got to prioritize your life at some point," said the 58-year-old Borseth, who has guided the Phoenix to a 19-2 record heading into tonight's 7 p.m. game against Cleveland State at the Kress Center.
"I missed out on a lot of things from a life standpoint, from living. Life's not about your status, how much money you make, or how high you go in your profession. It's got a lot more to do with living."
Borseth discovered that bigger is not always better, and the amount of money you make has very little to do with personal happiness.
"The higher you climb, I don't want to say you sell your soul to the company store, but you become ingrained in that," he said. "That's all life is. It's that. The whole thing focuses right on your job and everything else really doesn't make any difference. For me that was too much."
Borseth said it would be inaccurate to say he was unhappy in Ann Arbor, where he took a downtrodden program and built it into an NCAA tournament qualifier.
But he found there's more to life than career success. When his job became all-consuming to the point that he didn't have enough family time and couldn't golf, hunt or fish - pursuits that gave him balance and perspective - he knew it was time for a change.
"The demands of your job at that level are just so high," Borseth said. "It's really hard to explain until you're thrust into that environment, all the things that are entailed in that.
"You're so tied into that job that at some point it becomes unhealthy."
Borseth was so eager to return last spring that he took the first offer extended by UWGB director of athletics Ken Bothof.
"He was making a lot more money at Michigan and I'm sure had the potential to make more, given they had just been to the NCAA tournament," Bothof said. "But he clearly felt something was missing."
Borseth had coached the Phoenix to nine consecutive conference titles and seven NCAA tournament berths from 1998 to 2007.
His successor, Matt Bollant, extended the streak to 14 straight conference championships before handing the baton back to Borseth. With UWGB off to a 9-0 start in the Horizon League this season, there is no end in sight to the dynasty.
The pressure to win always will exist for Borseth. But he feels appreciated in Green Bay, which goes a long way toward contentment.
"When I leave the gym here I think I feel better," he said. "I just feel more relaxed."
At Michigan, Borseth said he struggled to deal with outside influences.
"There's a lot more people stirring the pot, you're not stirring your own pot," he said. "Everybody's adding seasoning to your soup. You're not the only cook in the kitchen, let's put it that way. There's a whole lot of people that have input into what you're doing."
Although he received plenty of solid advice, Borseth said it became too much of a good thing.
"It's like enough already, let me just do this, let me just take my job and do it the way I need it to be done," he said.
Borseth doesn't have that problem at UWGB, where no one second-guesses his style or methods. "They're kind of letting me do my job," he said.
In some ways, it's as if Borseth never left.
"He's the same in terms of coaching basketball, the intensity, the passion, all of those things," Bothof said. "I don't think anything has changed. The competitiveness, it's all there."
Borseth always relished the strong ties between his program and the Green Bay community, something he missed.
"Our fan base here is really - they're all about Green Bay women's basketball," he said. "It's a big deal here.
"We're all in this thing together and I don't know that I felt that same hominess at Ann Arbor. It didn't feel like it was the same."
Borseth said he has no regrets spending five years in Ann Arbor.
One of his five children, Carli, was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma during that time. Borseth, getting emotional when recounting the memory, credits the children's hospital at the University of Michigan with saving her life.
"It was the right spot at the right time," Borseth said. "She got the top care."
Doctors caught the cancer early and treated her with chemotherapy. Borseth said Carli, now in high school, is doing well.
"I think she's come to realize there's more important things in life than whether she gets an 'A' on an English paper," said Borseth. "Her outlook on life probably, as a whole, is a lot greater."
Borseth also has a new outlook on life. Had he not chased his dream at Michigan, he might never have realized how good life is in Green Bay.
"I'm in a great place, I really am, an absolute great place," he said. "I love it here. I like the people. I love my life."