This is part of The Shadow League's Hispanic Heritage Month In Focus series celebrating Latino excellence in sports and culture.
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 15 years, Borrego has been on a number of NBA coaching staffs as an assistant, including the San Antonio Spurs and Orlando Magic.
While Borrego had been up for a head coach position in the past, he, unfortunately, came up short. 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:
“I’m proud to be part of an NBA family that values diversity and values people who come from all walks of life. I’m happy to be one of them. I’m proud of where I come from, who I am, and how I was raised in Albuquerque—in a Hispanic culture. I’m thankful to be the league’s 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 doesn’t matter where you’re from, how you were brought up, the color of your skin. That’s 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 NBA’s most well-regarded assistant coaches, and it’s 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 back in May on a four-year deal, with the Hornets holding a team option for the fourth year, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. This was a watershed moment for the NBA that deserves to be honored during Hispanic Heritage month.
ESPN story on James Borrego reaching agreement on a contract to become the Charlotte Hornets coach. https://t.co/0sBb3aCjVg