Borrego exhausted, but pleased after winning Magic debut
ORLANDO, Fla. — James Borrego was appreciative Friday night of Tobias Harris’ performance hours after the Orlando Magic forward returned from the funeral of his grandfather in New York.
The NBA’s newest and youngest coach also admitted he can now appreciate what those in his fraternity have to go through on a game-to-game basis.
"It’s exhausting. It really is," Borrego said following the Magic’s 103-97 overtime victory over the Los Angeles Lakers to snap a 10-game losing skid. "I have a much deeper appreciation for what head coaches do — the amount of mental stress as well as physical stress, the amount of decisions you have to make, the management of the game."
The 37-year-old former assistant to Jacque Vaughn weathered some moments which would have tested any coach’s patience. The Lakers, who are nothing more than a shell of their former championship contending selves, held the Magic to 12 second-quarter points in building a 14-point halftime lead. In the fourth quarter, the Magic were called for a technical foul for having six players on the floor.
Yet they plugged on and were rewarded for their efforts.
"The first half was a very anxious half for all of us," Borrego said. "As we settled into the second half, we saw a spirit, a fight, a grittiness about the group that carried us into the fourth quarter and into overtime."
Not to diminish the 25-point, 13-rebound game the Magic got from Nikola Vucevic, but it was Harris who willed them to just their third victory since Dec. 29. The career-high 34 points they got from him were all the more impressive considering both Harris and teammate Channing Frye arrived in Orlando less than three hours before tipoff after attending the funeral Lt. Col. John Mulzac, their grandfather and one of the famed Tuskegee Airmen.
"It was definitely an emotional day for us," said Harris, whose quiet and serious demeanor in the locker room was in stark contrast to the celebratory mood of some of his teammates.
"It’s to his credit," Borrego said. "He had a rough, emotional day, as any of us would. And for him to step up in this moment after being on a plane and to come into this environment wanting to win â he embraced the moment. And I’m proud of his effort."
Borrego had his own set emotions with which to deal. He was close to Vaughn and said before the game he had spoken on the phone to the now-deposed coach of the previous 2 1/2 seasons, who told Borrego to "go get ’em."
And while Harris and Vucevic stood out in the win, it was a lineup of Luke Ridnour, Kyle O’Quinn, Aaron Gordon, Evan Fournier and Willie Green which triggered a 17-4 run in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter.
"They wanted this win so bad, not necessarily for me," Borrego said. "This was about the team. The team needed to feel this win. The group as a whole needed to feel this win. We needed something to build off."
Added Harris: "He deserves it more than anybody. He’s such a great guy. He really instilled what he wanted from us defensively and offensively. And the biggest thing was he wanted us to come together."
With Kobe Bryant having undergone surgery Jan. 28 on his rotator cuff, the Lakers had no one on their active roster averaging more than 14.2 points a game. But considering the Magic had given up more than 100 points in 14 consecutive games for the first time since the franchise’s expansion season, they weren’t about to apologize for the type of defensive results Borrego had in mind.
"There are some areas we can clean up when we look at the film," he said, likely alluding to the 10 3-pointers the Lakers hit through the first three quarters. "But I was proud of their effort. In a short period, in a short turnaround like this, we asked them to defend, to bring effort. And they showed that in the second half."
"There’s not a satisfaction," he said. "There’s an excitement, but not a satisfaction."