In modern sports, head coaches are often the first to blame when a team underperforms. Charlotte Hornets head coach, James Borrego, isn’t at that point… at least not yet.
It would be easy to rest the woes of the Charlotte Hornets solely at the feet of their second-year head coach, James Borrego. Then again, that might be taking the easy way out as the Hornets’ situation is a result of far more than just coaching.
Borrego was hired before last season after the team decided to move on from now Orlando Magic head coach, Steve Clifford. Clifford lasted five seasons in Charlotte, taking the team to the playoffs twice, before suffering two straight back-to-back 36 win seasons.
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James Borrego was brought in after serving three years as an assistant for the San Antonio Spurs under legendary coach, Greg Popovich. At the time, no one expected much of out Borrego because most were fully aware of the borderline dire situation in Charlotte.
To put it bluntly, Charlotte’s roster and financial situations were less than ideal. Some of that will hopefully be alleviated this coming offseason, but at the time of his hiring, coach Borrego was seemingly not asked to do much outside of commanding a somewhat competitive team.
Fans and the media alike knew what to expect from this situation and with newly-crowned general manager, Mitch Kupchak, assigned to fix the mistakes of the previous front office, many knew it would be some time before the Hornets would be corrected.
So, it should come as no surprise to see the young coach with a losing record and very few highlights to show for himself. In a little over one and a half-seasons, Borrego has a record of 62-85, which honestly isn’t terrible given how bad things really are.
Last season, the team finished with 39 wins and narrowly missed the playoffs. That team was certainly more talented than this year’s squad, so Borrego is at least partially culpable in this regard.
This year’s roster, however, was certainly weaker and much of that is out of the coach’s control, with the Hornets deciding to move on from All-Star guard, Kemba Walker. So, some regression was expected, and that’s exactly what we got. Should this season actually be over, 23 wins is all the club will have.
Even then, Borrego handled this with class and dignity. He never threw anyone under the bus or called anyone out. He approached his job with little acknowledgment of the team’s paltry record. He always took things one game at a time and always acted as if each game mattered, even though we all knew they really didn’t.
That’s something I think the fans have taken into account, or least that’s what I’ve surmised over the past two seasons. I haven’t seen one person calling for his job or saying that this situation is his doing.
Most fans are well aware that this team is a fixer-upper right now and that Borrego wasn’t tasked with turning this team into a championship contender. Sure, that would be nice, but it would also be terribly foolish to expect that out of him.
Whether Borrego lasts past his current contract in Charlotte remains to be seen. After this year, he’s on the books for two more seasons, should the organization decide to keep him around that long.
If he’s here simply to manage a team looking to rebuild, then so far, he’s done his job fairly admirably. If he’s here to bridge the gap from one playoff coach to another then he’s done a fine job of that as well.
In any case, James Borrego has weathered the storm for the Charlotte Hornets just as well as any first-time head coach could. That, in and of itself, is a feat worthy of praise.