JJ Redick’s Rival for Lakers Coaching Job Comes From Gregg Popovich’s Coaching Tree

JJ Redick

Getty Former NBA player JJ Redick works for ESPN at Ball Arena on December 25, 2023 in Denver, Colorado.

The Los Angeles Lakers are intrigued with JJ Redick’s potential as their next head coach. But a former head coach, who comes from Gregg Popovich’s coaching tree also has emerged as a strong candidate, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

“A couple of names to watch in this search are James Borrego, the top assistant in New Orleans. [The Pelicans] went from a top-20 offense in the league last year to [near] top-10 this year,” Wojnarowski said on ESPN SportsCenter on May 12. “He’ll be a candidate in this process. Another candidate is someone who hasn’t coached and that’s our colleague JJ Redick. He is certainly somebody that the Lakers are drilling down on. They’re making calls and they’re trying to get a sense of what a head coach JJ Redick would look like.”

Wojnarowski noted how Borrego’s arrival in New Orleans transformed the Pelicans’ offense from top-20 (113.8 offensive rating) last season to 11th this season (116.5 offensive rating).

“They really found, I think, a peak performance from Zion Williamson handling the ball and kind of playing that point forward position,” Wojnarowski said. “Borrego had uh a good run as head coach in Charlotte went from 23 to 33 to 43 wins there. Obviously, he was with Gregg Popovich for a long time in San Antonio.”

James Borrego Learned from Gregg Popovich

Borrego, 46, started his NBA coaching career as an assistant under Popovich at San Antonio from 2003 to 2010. He won two championships with the Spurs in 2005 against the Detroit Pistons and in 2007 against current Lakers superstar LeBron James when he was still with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

After seven seasons under Popovich, Borrego joined fellow Spurs coaching staff alumnus Monty Williams in New Orleans from 2010 to 2012. Then he went to Orlando, moving up as lead assistant under another Popovich disciple Jacque Vaughn in 2012. When the Magic fired Vaughn in February 2015, Borrego took over as interim coach for the rest of the season. He returned to San Antonio after the season and worked under Popovich for the next three years before finally getting his major break.

In 2018, Borrego, a New Mexico native, became the first Latino head coach in the NBA when the Hornets hired him. The Hornets improved by 10 wins in each of his final three seasons in Charlotte, including LaMelo Ball’s first two seasons in the league, before he was surprisingly fired in 2022.

Borrego returned to New Orleans and served as Willie Green’s associate head coach this season.

JJ Redick Seriously Considered for Hornets Coaching Job

Redick’s successful jump from his 15-year NBA career to becoming the top basketball analyst at ESPN while hosting multiple podcasts made him a finalist for the Hornets coaching vacancy.

The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that Redick was a serious candidate.

The Hornets eventually chose Boston Celtics assistant coach Charles Lee over Redick.

Redick’s close working relationship with James in their podcast “Mind the Game” which dissects X’s and O’s and wax poetic about the game is being viewed as a strong factor in his candidacy for the Lakers coaching job.

James even defended Redick from Colin Cowherd’s criticism, showing the respect the Lakers superstar has for the 15-year NBA veteran.

Wojnarowski added in his report that he doesn’t expect the Lakers coaching search process to be quick.