James Borrego Finalizes Deal To Become Hornets’ Head Coach

2:28pm: The Hornets and Borrego have finalized an agreement, reports Steve Reed of The Associated Press. Reed writes that a news conference to announce the hiring is expected to happen within the next few days.

11:54am: Spurs assistant James Borrego will become the new head coach in Charlotte, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who reports that Borrego is in the process of finalizing a deal with the Hornets.

Borrego began his NBA coaching career with the Spurs, spending seven seasons with the team from 2003 to 2010 before joining the Pelicans (then-Hornets) for two years and the Magic for three. He returned to San Antonio in 2015. Primarily an assistant over the course of his career, Borrego earned his lone head coaching experience in 2015 in Orlando, leading the Magic to a 10-20 record as Jacque Vaughn‘s interim replacement.

Despite his limited experience leading a team, Borrego’s years working under Gregg Popovich made him a popular coaching candidate this offseason. Borrego interviewed with the Knicks and Suns before they decided to hire David Fizdale and Igor Kokoskov, respectively. He also received reported interest from the Hawks and Bucks.

While Borrego didn’t gain serious traction as a candidate in New York or Phoenix, he was considered one of the two frontrunners for the Hornets’ job, along with Celtics assistant Jay Larranaga. Both veteran assistants reportedly had second interviews with Charlotte within the last few days — team owner Michael Jordan was said to be involved in those meetings.

Borrego will take over for Steve Clifford in Charlotte. Clifford, who was fired shortly after the 2017/18 regular season ended, had been the NBA’s seventh-longest-tenured head coach. He led the Hornets to a 196-214 record (.478) and a pair of playoff berths during his five years on the sidelines.

In addition to making a coaching change this spring, the Hornets also have a new head of basketball operations in place. After parting ways with general manager Rich Cho earlier this year, Charlotte hired Mitch Kupchak as the club’s new GM and president of basketball ops. Kupchak led a head coaching search that also saw candidates like Ettore Messina, Ime Udoka, David Vanterpool, Jim Boylen, Nick Nurse, and Jerry Stackhouse receive consideration.

According to Wojnarowski, Borrego made a strong impression during his initial meeting with Kupchak, and the GM became more intrigued by the Spurs assistant once he began canvassing executives, coaches, and players who had worked with Borrego.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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