CHARLOTTE – Aside from being the head coaches of the top two professional sports franchises in the state of North Carolina, Panthers head coach Ron Rivera and new Hornets head coach James Borrego have another obvious tie.
Rivera is the only current Hispanic head coach in the NFL and the third ever, while Borrego recently became the first full-time Hispanic head coach in the NBA.
They both take pride in that but don't see it as the end-all of their budding friendship.
"We haven't talked about it. I don't look at it through the lens of being Hispanic or breaking barriers," said Borrego, who attended a Panthers organized team activity for the second time Wednesday. "I think it's just motivation to young people, that it doesn't matter where you're from or your background or your ethnicity; if you chase something and you want to go after it, the world is wide open for you.
"Coach Rivera and myself are examples of that."
Rivera echoed that sentiment, saying that while the coaches' heritage is a point of pride, "our goal is just to be the best coach."
Rivera, who attends a handful of Hornets games every year, wants to see that happen for Borrego.
"I want to strike up this friendship because when I came here, I didn't know anybody that I could lean on. Now I'm able to offer that to somebody," Rivera said. "I want him to feel welcome because I want to see success. I want to see the Hornets grow and become a great team in the NBA, and I think James is off to a great start."
Borrego, who served as interim head coach of the Orlando Magic in 2015, was joined on the practice field Wednesday by new Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak and players Marvin Williams, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Malik Monk.
"I grew up playing football. I stopped playing in high school. I've always appreciated the football mentality," Borrego said. "I'm just trying to learn from one of the best in the league.
"I've had a lot of respect for Coach Rivera over the years, and being around him and learning from him and watching him teach and coach this group is a real asset for me."