James Borrego just became the first Latino head coach in NBA history #HispanicHeritageMonth2018 https://t.co/Bi1M0sYBhr
The 40-year-old New Mexico native has come a long way as he started his career as a walk-on player at San Diego State then as an unpaid grad assistant at the University of San Diego. Over the span of 17 years, Borrego has been on a number of NBA coaching staffs.
He started as an assistant video coordinator in the summer of 2003 with the Spurs and elevated to assistant coach with Orlando Magic, and New Orleans Hornets, before rejoining the Spurs as an assistant and blossoming into a star product of Gregg Popovich’s diversity coaching tree.
Borrego was brought in after serving three years under Pop. At the time, no one expected much of out Borrego because most were fully aware that Charlotte’s roster was lacking weapons and the organization as mired in financial problems.
Then they traded their best player, All-star guard Kemba Walker, and the bottom-up rebuild was officially underway.
The 42-year-old Borrego has the perfect temperament to deal with the ups and downs of a rebuild.
Before he got the Hornets job, he was looked over for several other gigs. But instead of letting his defeat consume him, Borrego turned disappointment into motivation and was driven by the pride he feels in his ancestry, background and upbringing, to which he credits most of his success.
In an essay for Sports Illustrated, Borrego wrote:
Im proud to be part of an NBA family that values diversity and values people who come from all walks of life. Im happy to be one of them. Im proud of where I come from, who I am, and how I was raised in Albuquerquein a Hispanic culture. Im thankful to be the leagues first Hispanic coach, and I want to be an inspiration for young men and women, to show you can be anything you want to be. It doesnt matter where youre from, how you were brought up, the color of your skin. Thats the lens I look at this through.
The Hornets were sold on Borrego’s strong credentials as one of Gregg Popovich‘s longtime assistants with the Spurs, including his player development skills, strategic game planning on both the offensive and defensive ends, and not to mention relationships he’s built with players over the years.
Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak said in a statement:
[Borrego] has been a part of teams that have ascended to the highest levels of success in our league and understands what it takes to win in the NBA. James is considered one of the NBAs most well-regarded assistant coaches, and its great to have him as part of our team.
While Borrego doesn’t like to think of himself as the league’s first Hispanic coach, there’s no denying the historic moment that was made.
Borrego was hired by Charlotte on a four-year deal, with the Hornets holding a team option for the fourth year, according to ESPNs Adrian Wojnarowski. This was a watershed moment for the NBA that deserves to be honored during Hispanic Heritage month.