Hornets Assistant Coaches' Roundtable
By: Jim Eichenhofer,, @Jim_Eichenhofer
September 21, 2011

Left to Right: Asst. Coach Randy Ayers; Head Coach Monty Williams; Asst. Coach Fred Vinson; Asst. Coach Bryan Gates; Asst. Coach James Borrego

The New Orleans Hornets were one of the NBAs most improved teams in 2010-11, upping their victory total by nine games, from 37-45 to 46-36. The Hornets also qualified for the playoffs following a one-year absence. One less-discussed group that deserved credit for the teams significant improvement: Monty Williams staff of assistant coaches.

Randy Ayers, James Borrego, Bryan Gates and Fred Vinson were all hired early in the summer of 2010 and helped quickly instill the tenets of Williams system. That paid immediate dividends when New Orleans began the regular season with a franchise-record 8-0 start. It later helped the Hornets withstand several key injuries en route to a Western Conference playoff berth and a hard-fought, first-round defeat to the two-time defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers.

After the departure of Michael Malone this summer to join Mark Jackson and the Golden State Warriors, Dave Hanners became the newest addition to Williams five-man staff.

A little over a year after Ayers, Borrego, Gates and Vinson arrived in the city, we checked in with the quartet to get their thoughts on a handful of questions about the Hornets and New Orleans.

Asst. Coach Bryan Gates
How long have you known Monty Williams? How did your relationship with him begin?
Ayers: I first watched him as a high school player, before he went to Notre Dame. He played for me in Philadelphia with the 76ers (during the 2002-03 NBA season). We respected his ability and knew that he was a high-character guy. He also played a part in my son Ryan choosing to go to Notre Dame (from 2005-09).

Borrego: I have known him for eight years. Our relationship started when he spent a year with the Spurs as an assistant coach. We spent a lot of time talking and watching basketball.

Gates: I met Coach Williams at Portlands training camp in 2007. I was the head coach of the Idaho Stampede, the Trail Blazers D-League affiliate.

Vinson: During Las Vegas summer league in 2006, I met Monty when he was an assistant coach for the Trail Blazers. I was looking to become a coach, because my playing career was coming to an end. My junior college coach, Bob Burke who was also an assistant for Portland introduced me to Monty.

Asst. Coach James Borrego
What were some of the primary factors in your decision to work with Williams?
Ayers: First of all, I respected him as a player. As his NBA coaching career advanced, we would talk when we played games against Portland. From the outside looking in, you could tell at that time that his future was bright, he enjoyed what he was doing and had a good work ethic. I could tell he did things a certain way.

Borrego: I knew how hard he worked, how passionate he was about the game and how much determination he would have to build something special in New Orleans. I saw that in him eight years ago and believed he would most likely get an opportunity like this one day.

Gates: I met with Coach Williams right before the (2010) draft and we had a great visit about basketball and family. As a team, we are together so much, it has to be about more than just whats on the court.

Vinson: First and foremost, Montys character. Also his work ethic, his loyalty, his knowledge of the game all of those things. Hes a younger guy, so he and I kind of established a rapport. Hes also a spiritual guy and we have a connection on that level.

Asst. Coach Fred Vinson
How do you describe your coaching style or emphasis as a coach?
Ayers: Whatever Monty wants to do. [laughs] As an assistant, you have to help your head coach, reinforce his teaching points, and mix in your own philosophy. I like to think of myself as a teacher. I always enjoy practices and putting a team together so that it can compete.

Borrego: I try to take a teacher-like approach.

Gates: Teamwork communication, on both ends of the floor. Having a team with great chemistry will always win.

Vinson: For me personally, one of the most important aspects of coaching is communication with players and building trust with them. You have to be there when they want to get work in or if they need to talk (about off-the-court topics).

Asst. Coach Randy Ayers
When you look back at 2010-11, what is your favorite memory or the thing that stood out to you the most about the season?
Ayers: During training camp, when you could see guys buying in to what Monty wanted to do. That was fun for me to watch. It was like the slogan that we see all the time now of Im In. When your leaders buy in, it makes things easier. Monty was very good at sticking with his principles his four pillars (defend, rebound, run with a purpose, value the basketball) that we talk about. I saw that we were willing to work and compete consistently as a team.

Borrego: My strongest memory of the season is the back-to-back games at Utah and Phoenix in late March. We had a major injury in the Utah game and still found a way to win in overtime after a miraculous shot at the buzzer of regulation. The night was so emotional. Then we went to Phoenix the next night and everyone was doubting us. That win against the Suns gave us hope and belief again to make a playoff run.

Gates: When we were delayed in Houston after a game and had to play in Charlotte the next day (in mid-January). We won both games after getting to our rooms in Charlotte around 6 a.m. The team ate together in Houston (late at night after the win over the Rockets). It was a great time for everyone to relax and laugh. I remember a few of our players all laughing at their table. I thought it was a great team night.

Vinson: There are so many things I remember from the season, but the number one thing for me was beating the Lakers in Game 1 in Los Angeles in the playoffs, when everyone thought we had no chance. The 10-game winning streak was great, beating the Spurs here in New Orleans was great but that one does it for me.

All of you were hired by the Hornets during the 2010 offseason. What has the experience been like for you living in New Orleans, away from basketball?
Ayers: One of the biggest things Ive noticed is that people here have great passion and a great spirit for the community. They truly love their city here. Its unique. We have been welcomed and have really enjoyed being here.

Borrego: The people of New Orleans have been so warm and welcoming. My family feels comfortable and happy to be here. It is a passionate city with lots of flavor. We are now lovers of charbroiled oysters. We love Dragos restaurant!

Gates: We live in Uptown and have taken full advantage of living on Audubon Park.

Vinson: Its been great. Being from North Carolina, Im originally from the South, so for me to be back here is great. The people are so nice and so supportive. Id lived in a huge city, Los Angeles, for 11 or 12 years, so Ive really enjoyed the relaxed lifestyle here.

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