What Had Happened Was Trending stories on the intersections of race, sports & culture

James Borrego breaks barrier as NBA’s first Hispanic full-time head coach

Former Spurs assistant will lead Charlotte Hornets

9:48 AMJames 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.”

We’re one game away from a Subban sibling rivalry match in Western Conference finals

Malcolm’s Golden Knights have advanced, while P.K.’s Predators must win a Game 7

5:42 PMIt’s not as if the Las Vegas Golden Knights don’t already have the best story in hockey, if not all of sports.

The 31st team in the National Hockey League, an expansion unit playing in its first season, has advanced to the Western Conference finals. The Knights are the third team in league history to win multiple series in its inaugural season, joining the 1918 Toronto Arenas and 1968 St. Louis Blues.

Similar to the Houston Astros in Major League Baseball, the Knights are playing for a city that is recovering from a tragic ordeal. Before the team’s first game, a domestic terrorist killed 59 people (including himself) and injured 851 in the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.

The Knights being one of the last four teams in the Stanley Cup chase may be an even better feel-good story than Loyola’s men’s basketball team making it to the NCAA tournament’s Final Four.

But there could be another feel-good element should the Nashville Predators win their series against the Winnipeg Jets. The Predators beat the Jets, 4-0, on Monday night to force a decisive Game 7 on Thursday.

That would mean another Subban-Subban meeting for hockey fans. Malcolm Subban, the backup goalie for the Knights, talked to The Players’ Tribune about how close he and his brother are and how the two of them make each other better.

P.K. Subban, Malcolm’s older brother, is one of the most popular and fashionable players in the NHL. He has made more of a name for himself on the ice and off it since the Montreal Canadiens traded him to Nashville in 2016. P.K. certainly got the better end of that stick, as he helped the Predators make last season’s Stanley Cup Final.

Little brother has gotten the best of big brother on both occasions the two have squared off. The brothers’ first meeting was in a preseason game on Sept. 16, 2013, when P.K.’s Canadiens welcomed Malcolm’s Boston Bruins.

Malcolm came on in the second period and blocked every shot on goal, including one from his brother, in the Bruins’ 6-3 victory. P.K. conveniently forgot that he even had a shot on goal, while Malcolm was quick to say in jest that it was the slowest shot he saw all night.

When the duo faced each other in their first regular-season matchup this season on Dec. 8, 2017, they became the 10th set of brothers to play against each another with one a skater and another a goaltender. At one point, Malcolm and P.K. made eye contact and sized the other one up as the game moved to overtime and shootouts.

Unlike the preseason game, P.K. and Malcolm wouldn’t go head to head, but the Knights would prevail, 4-3, on a night when Malcolm made a career-high 41 saves.

Karl Subban, P.K.’s and Malcolm’s father, has typically tried to stay neutral in these contests, but he said after the game the family was rooting for the little brother, who has yet to establish himself in the league.

“I think we all see it as Malcolm’s moment, and we don’t even want P.K. to ruin it for him,” Karl Subban told NHL.com. “Please, P.K. and the Preds, don’t ruin it for Malcolm tonight and his teammates.”

If that’s how the family felt for a regular-season game, how exactly is that going to work if the two brothers find themselves fighting for a chance to make the Stanley Cup Final? Will they root for P.K. to get there so the Predators can redeem themselves? Or maybe the Subban family would like to see Malcolm make his first trip to the championship series.

One thing is for certain: Nobody wins when the family feuds, so it doesn’t matter how they do it, but the Subban family has to figure out a way to keep the peace in its household should the two brothers meet.