Borrego: "My Confidence is Very High"

By John Denton
April 13, 2015

MIAMI – Regardless of where James Borrego’s future takes him in coaching – he could be hired as the Orlando Magic’s full-time coach or he could move on elsewhere – the interim head coach feels that he’s proven himself worthy of running a team.

Borrego was tapped as the Magic’s interim coach on Feb. 5 when the team dismissed Jacque Vaughn. Borrego won his first game and two of three before the NBA All-Star break and then he was informed that he would remain as the coach the rest of the season.

Borrego and the Magic headed into Monday’s penultimate game at 10-18, having beaten playoff contenders such as Chicago, Portland, Boston, Milwaukee and New Orleans. And to further illustrate how the players have responded to Borrego calm, but firm ways, the Magic have had the lead in the fourth quarter in 18 of the 28 games.

``I absolutely believe that I can do this,’’ Borrego said. ``My confidence is very high and this position has forced me to get there. Give our players credit and our staff credit because they have helped me get through this.

``My focus has always been on the players. From the minute that I took over, it’s been about the players and doing whatever I can to help them,’’ Borrego continued. ``Through that process I had to grow and build a strength and a confidence about myself as a person and a coach. I’ve found that. I’m a ways from where I want to be, but I’m closer than I’ve ever been.’’

Even though this is Borrego’s first shot at being a head coach, he has spent the past 12 years preparing for this moment. He worked hand-in-hand with Gregg Popovich in San Antonio as a video coordinator, he was recruited to New Orleans by Monty Williams and he worked as Vaughn’s top assistant for the previous 2 ½ seasons. Borrego has worked around the clock and with a skeleton staff following the changes, but he said there’s nothing he’d rather do than be around a NBA team.

``This is what I do. I’m trained for this and I’m ready for this,’’ Borrego said. ``It’s been physically exhausting and mentally exhausting, but I love it and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I’m going to have some time here soon to reflect and take a pause, but right now I’m still in the move do bringing it every day and trying to help our team get every win possible.’’

GORDON GAINING: Borrego said recently that forward Aaron Gordon has ``winning DNA’’ and that he is making a strong case to play more minutes for the Magic. With that in mind, Borrego rewarded the rookie for his recent gains with a starting role on Monday night in Miami.

Gordon started in place of Dewayne Dedmon because Borrego thought the 6-foot-9, 220-pound rookie would be a good matchup against Miami’s Udonis Haslem.

Gordon has impressed the Magic of late with his ability to defend at a high level and get on the glass to give the team second chances. Gordon smothered Rookie of the Year favorite Andrew Wiggins almost two weeks ago and then came back a night later and posted the first double-double (10 points and 12 rebounds) of his career. He had a key assist and a basket late in a win against Chicago and he scored 13 points on Friday against Toronto. Not bad work for a rookie who missed 31 games because of a broken foot from November to February.

``It’s gone by fast, but I would like to have those 30-something games back that I missed,’’ said Gordon, who was also out three other games with ankle and foot soreness.

Gordon has played so well of late that he has earned the trust of Borrego, who likes playing the versatile forward late in games because of his ability to switch onto any foe on defense.

``Our players earn their minutes and he’s earned more minutes and is pushing for us play him even more,’’ Borrego said. ``I’m hoping to get him even more minutes. He has been great and he is learning every game. We’re getting more comfortable with him on the floor. He has a really bright future.’’

COACHES’ FAVORITE: Coaches throughout the NBA have praised Magic rookie point guard Elfrid Payton because of all the many things he can do on the court. Several coaches have said that when watching video footage of the Magic, Payton is the first player they notice because of his ability to make the others around him better.

Miami’s Erik Spoelstra is the latest to applaud Payton for his gritty work on the defensive end of the floor and his unique ability to get into the lane and find open teammates.

``Their backcourt can really wreak havoc on what you’re trying to do on both ends of the court,’’ Spoelstra said before Monday’s game. ``Peyton has 10 steals in our (first) three games. He’s a really disruptive and unique player because he can impact the game in so many different ways.’’

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