When you drop 47 points on a team you get to talk junk in that program’s house, even two years removed from the feat.
That seems to be former Kentucky star Malik Monk’s approach to Charlotte Hornets training camp being held at the Smith Center this week. Monk scored 47 against North Carolina in December of 2016, early in his one college season.
“They’ve got a lot of nice stuff in here (but) this...this is not like Rupp (Arena). Rupp better than this,” Monk said of the home of Kentucky basketball.
Monk also joked that the Smith Center could probably benefit from switching to a deeper shade of blue paint. That’s bold, considering both Hornets owner Michael Jordan and general manager Mitch Kupchak are former Tar Heels stars.
Meanwhile, the only Tar Heel on the Hornets’ roster, power forward Marvin Williams, was all smiles about returning to the Smith Center.
“This is still like home to me,” said Williams, who was an integral part of the Tar Heels’ 2005 national championship team before turning pro. “I’ve spent a great deal of time here and in this gym.”
Williams says he never anticipated playing again at the Smith Center; the Hornets will play a preseason exhibition Friday there against the Boston Celtics.
David West, recently retired after 15 NBA seasons, was at the Smith Center for Tuesday’s opening session of training camp. West and Hornets coach James Borrego are friends from when West played for the San Antonio Spurs during the 2015-16 season; Borrego was then a Spurs assistant.
West grew up in suburban Raleigh before going on to star at Xavier. He was known as one of the tougher and more cerebral players in the NBA.
Borrego said he’d love to see West back in the NBA in some post-playing role, that he obviously has knowledge and savvy to be an asset.
Also at practice was Matt Carroll, who will have an expanded role this season with the Hornets. Carroll, who does color analysis for home games on the team’s radio network, will work in player programs, an off-court mentoring position.
At 40, Borrego is relatively young to be an NBA head coach. He and wife Megan have three school-age children, so he’s working through balancing his job responsibilities with family life in Charlotte.
“I have three kids and a wife and I don’t want to lose perspective on that. So there is a human element to this,” Borrego said. “I want to be a great head coach here for many, many years to come. And be a good father and a good husband.”
Borrego said the difference now is all the administrative tasks that make time management challenging.
“I’ve had to make so many decisions on a day-to-day basis that as an assistant you really don’t have to think about,” Borrego said.
“As an assistant, you’re just part of a staff. When you’re the head coach, I’m coaching my staff and coaching my players.”