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Editorial: New Mexicans rise to the top in economics, sports

What does the Nobel prize in economics have in common with the lofty ranks of head coaching in the National Basketball Association?

William Nordhaus

William Nordhaus

The answer “not much” would be a reasonable response most years. But 2018 is an exception thanks to a couple of remarkable trailblazers with New Mexico roots – William Nordhaus and James Borrego.

Nordhaus was one of two men to receive the Nobel Prize in economics last month for his work on the economics of a warming planet. One key step he has endorsed is a universal carbon tax rather than government edicts.

His work is so impressive he has been dubbed “the father of climate change economics.”

Nordhaus, 77, is part of a prominent family with long ties to New Mexico. His grandfather started a ranch outside Montezuma that the family still owns. His father was instrumental in creating the Sandia Peak Ski Area and helped build our iconic tram to get there. And his late brother Robert was a prominent Washington energy lawyer who wrote the 1970 Clean Air Act. The so-called brothers of climate change grew up in a house on Rio Grande Boulevard and attended Washington Middle School before leaving Albuquerque for prep school, then Yale like their dad.

James Borrego

James Borrego

Turning to the world of sports, Albuquerque Academy alumnus Borrego became the first Hispanic American full-time coach of an NBA team after being selected to lead the Charlotte Hornets. In a game in which minorities make up an overwhelming majority of stars of the floor, Borrego’s appointment is an important step toward diversity among the people calling the shots on the sidelines.

Borrego wrote for Sports Illustrated about his Albuquerque upbringing in what he described as a predominately Hispanic culture with a single parent mom who worked “two, three, four jobs to put food on the table, to get me into basketball leagues. … ”

“She never made excuses for her situation, she always figured things out. I’ve carried that with me my whole life.”

He credits high school coaches Mike Brown and John Whisenant for helping him and adds that the value of his Hispanic heritage is built around family, “how we love each other and how we value each other.” And, he says, “there’s a sense of family that runs throughout that state,” and he’s proud to be from New Mexico.

While their professional endeavors are worlds apart, Nordhaus and Borrego share the character traits that propelled them to excellence and have made them leaders in their respective fields.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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