Lakers target James Borrego emerging as potential favorite to become Cavaliers head coach

Three weeks after firing head coach J.B. Bickerstaff, the Cleveland Cavaliers appear to have a top target for his replacement.

James Borrego, associate head coach of the New Orleans Pelicans who is a target of the Lakers after missing out on Dan Hurley, is emerging as a favorite in the Cavs’ coaching search.

“James Borrego … he’s getting momentum in Cleveland,” ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported during “Get Up” on Monday. “He’s expected to interview there early this week as a potential leading candidate developing with the Cavs.”

Charlotte Hornets coach James Borrego calls a play during the first half of the team’s NBA
basketball game against the Washington Wizards on April 10, 2022 AP

Bickerstaff coached the Cavs for four-plus seasons, ending his career with a 48-34 season and a second-round playoff loss to the Boston Celtics.

He joined the organization in 2019 and made the playoffs twice during his time with the team.

Borrego stands out due to his NBA head coaching experience, having served as interim head coach of the Orlando Magic in 2015 and full-time head coach of the Charlotte Hornets from 2018-22.

Cleveland Cavaliers head coach J. B. Bickerstaff reacts in the second quarter of game three of the second round of the 2024 NBA playoffs against the Boston Celtics David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Despite a career record of 148-183 (.447), Borrego is a highly regarded product of Gregg Popovich’s coaching tree, winning NBA titles as an assistant with the San Antonio Spurs in 2005 and 2007.

And his stock is up after the Pelicans went 49-33 this season.

While the Cavs zero in on Borrego as their potential head coach, he remains a candidate for the Lakers, who are continuing their search after Hurley declined a six-year, $70 million deal to pursue a third straight NCAA title with UConn.

The Lakers believed Hurley was the “best available coach out there,”  ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said during an appearance on “SportsCenter” on Monday.

Per Wojnarowski, the deal would have made Hurley one of the top six highest-paid coaches in the NBA if he had accepted.

The UConn head coach told ESPN that while the Lakers made a “compelling case,” he is proud of what he’s built with the Huskies.

Dan Hurley spurned the Lakers to stay at UConn. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

The Lakers fired Darvin Ham in May after just two seasons with the team. 

Their push for Hurley fell through, leaving them to regroup in their coaching search. 

According to Wojnarowski, the Lakers are now expected to focus on Borrego and JJ Redick, aiming to hire a new coach before the NBA draft on June 26.

It’s reasonable to question whether either candidate would want the job, knowing they were clearly backup options.

The Cavs have already interviewed several candidates for their job, including Minnesota Timberwolves lead assistant Micah Nori and New York Knicks associate head coach Johnnie Bryant, who is close with Cavs star Donovan Mitchell.