Charlotte Hornets fire James Borrego after four seasons as head coach

Charlotte Hornets head coach James Borrego has been fired, the team announced Friday. This comes after the Hornets were blown out in each of their two play-in games this postseason.

“I want to thank JB for his hard work and commitment during these past four seasons,” Hornets team president and GM Mitch Kupchak said. “Beyond his work as a coach, he is a tremendous person. I wish him and his family the best in the future. These decisions are always difficult. Having said that, we have a talented, young core of players which has me very excited about the future of the Hornets. We will begin the search for our new head coach immediately.”   

During his four-year tenure with the Hornets, Borrego accumulated a 138-163 record, including 43-39 this season which was his best showing with the franchise. The Hornets qualified for the league’s play-in tournament in each of the last two seasons.

Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the decision to relieve Borrego of his duties stems from the fact that the Hornets suffered lopsided losses in both play-in games to end the 2021-22 campaign. However, the Hornets did see successful development of young assets like LaMelo Ball, Miles Bridges, and Devonte Graham before Graham signed with the New Orleans Pelicans last summer.

When Borrego took over the Hornets in 2018, he was set to lead a roster with Kemba Walker that hoped to compete for the playoffs. But only one year into his tenure in Charlotte, Walker left in free agency after the Hornets decided not to pay him. That would not be the last time Charlotte’s front-office misadventures deprived Borrego of talent. He has, for the past several years, been forced to make do with underwhelming defensive talent and no starting-caliber center.

He’s largely done so by capitalizing on the plethora of guards at his disposal. Borrego’s defining trait as a coach thus far in his career has been his creativity, coming up with small-ball lineups that could defend at relatively decent rates while benefiting from the offensive spacing and skill that going small tends to provide.

Now Borrego’s replacement will have to adjust to LaMelo Ball’s growing star power, a roster with limited flexibility thanks to the large contracts given to Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier, and, of course, the ever-present lack of a center. Looming over all of this is Michael Jordan’s hesitance to pay the luxury tax and the general financial limitations of the Charlotte roster. Ball’s presence as an ascending star makes the job one of the more attractive in basketball, but given the issues that cost Borrego, it’s not one that comes without risks.

Christin Hakim

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