New UWGB women’s basketball coach Kayla Karius ‘checked all the boxes’

GREEN BAY – The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay women’s basketball team had plenty of choices to replace legendary coach Kevin Borseth.

It likely couldn’t have landed a better one than Kayla (Tetschlag) Karius, a former UWGB star who takes over for the man who recruited her to play for the Phoenix after a standout career at Sheboygan North.

Karius was introduced as the fourth coach in program history during a news conference Thursday at the Kress Center.

It’s good to be home.

“As a junior when I was playing, I had the idea already that I would love to be a college coach someday,” Karius said. “This job has always been in the back of our minds as a family, certainly with our family and our village being close by. We have the support system we need.

“On top of it, this program being one that is set up so well for success and ready to reach new heights. This is the place we want to be for a very, very long time.”

Karius received a glowing endorsement a day earlier from Borseth, who had a few conversations with her and other candidates who reached out to him during a coaching search that took fewer than two weeks to complete.

UWGB athletic director Josh Moon didn’t need to extend the process any longer.

When you know, you know, and everyone knew it was Karius.

“Kayla, in my opinion, checked all the boxes,” Borseth said. “She played here, so she understands Green Bay and everything about it. People here are familiar with her and she had a great deal of success as a student and an athlete here.

“She was an associate head coach at the University of Wisconsin, so was recognized by a lot of people in our state. Which, in my opinion, is very important moving forward. … She has got experience. She has been a lot of places, done a lot of things in significant roles and probably put her over the edge with the other candidates potentially that were looking at the position.”

Karius is only 35, but she already has a wealth of coaching experience after playing professionally overseas for four years.

She spent one season as an assistant at Sioux Falls before joining South Dakota under former Borseth assistant Dawn Plitzuweit, earning high marks for her recruiting ability and work in helping run the defense.

Karius left after two seasons to take an assistant role at Wisconsin and served as the associate head coach and the recruiting coordinator during her third and final year with the program before joining Drake as an assistant in 2021.

Karius earned her first head coaching job at South Dakota a year later after Plitzuweit left to become the coach at West Virginia.

She went 37-29 with the Coyotes. They went 23-13 this season and made a run to the Super 16 of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament for the third time in program history.

Karius was preparing for her third season, but when the UWGB job was offered, she couldn’t pass on it.

It not only allowed her to return to her alma mater, but it also gave a person big on family a chance to be near them again.

Karius’ husband, Rick, is from Chilton. The couple has two young children who now get to see their grandparents and other loved ones far more often.

Karius is the first UWGB basketball coach, men or women, to have played and been a head coach at the school.

UWGB often has been a steppingstone to a bigger job and more money. Borseth left for Michigan in 2007. Matt Bollant replaced him and eventually was hired at Illinois.

That might not end up being the case for Karius. After all, she has seen coaches who have left here and wanted to come back.

She now has her dream job, and sometimes that can be a difficult thing to put a price tag on.

“I think the biggest piece is trying to find someone who wants to be here,” Borseth said. “From Kayla’s perspective, she wants to be here. Her grandparents on both sides are close by. She is a big family person. Do I look at Kayla coaching here for three years and looking to move on? If I was a betting person, I would say absolutely not.

“I would say Kayla is looking to put her roots down here. She recognizes the significance of the program, how the program is appreciated in the community. How important it is to the university and the community.”

Kayla Karius got her start at Sheboygan North 

It’s difficult to project any teenager to be a future NCAA Division I coach.

But it’s not a shock to those who know Karius to see how far she has come in a relatively short period of time.

Karius earned a spot on the varsity team as a freshman at North under first-year coach Susie Runaas.

Some expressed doubt about a rookie being called up so quickly, but Runaas told them to wait and watch.

Everyone soon saw what she did.

Karius showed at a young age she was the type of person who, whatever she decided to do, she was going to put in the work to accomplish it.

She was the leader for the Golden Raiders. Runaas was the coach of the team, but Karius was the coach on the court.

Karius also was a coach in the offseason, often running the summer program.

“Just the intangibles,” Runaas said. “Understanding the game, especially at that age. Obviously, that has progressed into a whole new level.

“She is just a special player and a special person. It doesn’t surprise me that she has gotten to this point. All her stops along the way to get to Green Bay have just been building blocks for her.”

Karius developed into one of the top prep players in the state by her senior season after leading the Golden Raiders to the WIAA Division 1 state title game in 2007.

She was the biggest star at state and named tournament MVP despite a 49-45 loss to Milwaukee Vincent in the championship, a contest in which she scored a game-high 19 points and shot 8-for-14.

Karius had 22 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists and 5 steals in a semifinal victory over La Crosse Logan and 10 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals in a quarterfinal win against Franklin.

The way she carried herself on and off the court that weekend was noticed by people who were aware of who she was but hadn’t gotten to see what made her special the way those around her every day did.

“After North played at the state tournament, Kayla was brought in for a press conference in front of the statewide media,” said former Sheboygan Press reporter Adam Thompson, who covered Karius during her prep career. “I remember all of the other journalists who didn’t regularly converse with her were floored by her level of thoughtfulness, her poise and her eloquence.

“Kayla was still just a high school kid, but she already sounded like a coach.”

Karius was the top vote-getter for the first Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association all-state team as a senior. She earned a scholarship to attend UWGB.

Borseth wanted her because she played exactly the way his Phoenix teams did. She was a good defender and knew how to front the post. She was a great passer. She was, as everybody knew by then, an excellent leader.

“She just radiated Green Bay basketball,” Borseth said.

Karius happy to follow in Borseth’s footsteps

Karius received a call from Borseth on her birthday her senior year of high school, but it wasn’t just to wish her a great day.

It was to inform her he was taking the job at Michigan.

She talked to Runaas a short time after the call. Karius was completely crushed.

“I felt so bad for her,” Runaas said.

Karius eventually expressed a desire to join Borseth at Michigan. But the coach who she always wanted to play for told her and her father he thought it was best she remain at UWGB, that she was going to be fine and everything would work out.

It most certainly did.

Karius scored 1,372 career points at UWGB from 2007 to 2011 and was the Horizon League’s co-player of the year as a senior along with teammate Celeste Hoewisch.

She scored double figures in 29 of 36 games that season and had 11 double-doubles. She averaged a team-high 14.2 points and 7.6 rebounds and shot 50.6% overall and 81.8% from the line.

Karius’ final collegiate game came against Baylor in UWGB’s only Sweet 16 appearance in 2011, when she scored 27 points and grabbed 10 rebounds while going up against Brittney Griner.

She helped lead the Phoenix to a school-record 34 wins that season, along with both the Horizon League regular season and tournament titles.

Karius was part of a UWGB team that went to the NCAA Tournament three times and captured four conference championships.

When she graduated, Borseth received a note from Karius’ father.

He told him Borseth was right.

Another big moment happened on Karius’ birthday this month, 17 years after Borseth called to tell her he was leaving UWGB.

The legendary coach decided to retire, with an official announcement the following day.

This time, Karius does get to follow in Borseth’s footsteps.

“She became one of the greatest players at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay,” Borseth said. “Hopefully, that will translate into success here as a coach. With everybody’s help, I think there is a good chance it will happen.”

Source: New UWGB women’s basketball coach Kayla Karius ‘checked all the boxes’

View more of this story on WBAY and NBC 26

You may also like...