Charlotte Hornets, James Borrego, NBA -

James Borrego breaks barrier as NBA’s first Hispanic full-time head coach Former Spurs assistant will lead Charlotte Hornets

Charlotte Hornets, James Borrego, NBA -

James Borrego breaks barrier as NBA’s first Hispanic full-time head coach Former Spurs assistant will lead Charlotte Hornets

James Borrego pushed through a barrier when the Charlotte Hornets named him the first Hispanic full-time head coach in NBA history on Thursday.

The former San Antonio Spurs assistant coach’s family is of Mexican descent and three generations removed from arriving in the United States, according to the Orlando Sentinel. The 40-year-old Borrego grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and has previously said basketball helped him connect with kids from other cultures.

Perhaps Borrego’s hiring could spark more Hispanics to get involved in basketball, as players decreased from 6.3 percent in 2015-16 to 4.9 percent during the 2016-17 season, according to the 2017 Racial and Gender Report Card: National Basketball Association.

“What connected me with other cultures was sports,” Borrego told The Orlando Sentinel in 2015. “Basketball really brought us together. They saw I was a pretty good basketball player. They said, ‘Hey, why don’t you join the game?’ and all of a sudden we have two, three and four cultures come together to play a game, and from that those guys became my best friends.”

Erik Spoelstra became the NBA’s first Asian-American head coach when the Miami Heat promoted him from assistant coach in 2008. The Boston Celtics named Bill Russell the first black coach in the NBA in 1966.

Borrego was an assistant coach under Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich for the past three seasons. He began his 15 years of experience in the NBA as a video coordinator for the Spurs during the 2003-04 season. Borrego has also been an assistant coach with the New Orleans Hornets and the Orlando Magic. He served as the Magic’s interim head coach for the final 30 games of the 2014-15 season before returning to the Spurs. Mexican-American coach Kaleb Canales, an assistant with the Dallas Mavericks, was interim head coach of the Portland Trail Blazers in 2012.

Borrego, a former University of San Diego basketball player, was an assistant coach with the Toreros from 2001-03 before going to the NBA. Former USD players with NBA head coaching experience include Borrego, former NBA head coach Bernie Bickerstaff, Golden State Warriors assistant coach Mike Brown and New York Knicks head coach David Fizdale. Borrego will be the 11th head coach in the history of the Michael Jordan-owned franchise.

“I’m confident in the coaching foundation I’ve had the opportunity to develop during my time in San Antonio, Orlando and New Orleans, and I cannot wait to get to work in Charlotte,” Borrego said in a statement.

Said Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak: “[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.”

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