Paul Silas, a member of three NBA championship teams as a player and LeBron James’ first coach in the league, has died, his family announced Sunday. He was 79.
The family revealed the death at the hands of the Houston Rockets, for whom Silas’ son Stephen is a second-generation head coach. The Boston Globe first reported Silas’ death, and no official reason was immediately given.
“We mourn the passing of former NBA All-Star and head coach Paul Silas,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “Paul’s lasting contributions to the game are evident in the many players and coaches he has inspired, including his son, Rockets head coach Stephen Silas. We extend our deepest condolences to Paul’s family.”
Silas began his head coaching career with a three-year stint as manager of what was then the San Diego Clippers beginning in 1980. After spending more than a decade as an assistant, he returned as head coach and spent time with the Charlotte Hornets. the New Orleans Hornets, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Charlotte Bobcats.
He took four of those teams to the playoffs and won exactly 400 games – 387 in the regular season, 13 more in the postseason.
“Paul made a huge contribution to the game of basketball and we will miss him dearly!” Hall of Fame guard and Los Angeles Lakers great Magic Johnson wrote on Twitter.
The Rockets hosted Milwaukee on Sunday night. It wasn’t immediately clear how long Stephen Silas would be absent from the team; The Rockets planned to have John Lucas temporarily manage the team while the Silas family mourns.
Stephen Silas came into the NBA world while his father was coaching in Charlotte. Beginning as a forward scout, he eventually served as an assistant on his father’s staff with the Hornets in 2000. It took Stephen Silas two decades to get the chance to become a head coach, which came when Houston hired him in 2020.
“My dad was obviously my #1 mentor, someone I could lean on and ask questions, and he questioned me,” Stephen Silas said of his coaching journey in a 2021 documentary produced by the Rockets . “He really valued my opinion, which was kind of strange for me since I was so young and didn’t have a lot of experience.”
Stephen Silas lasted a long time before he got his big break. He also had to wait a long time for his father to get his dream job. Paul Silas was fired by the San Diego Clippers in 1983 and didn’t have another chance as head coach until 1999 — when Dave Cowens, for whom Paul Silas was an assistant, resigned after a 4-11 start in Charlotte in the 1998-99 season.
“I was known for not being hard, hard, hard working and it really hurt me when I was an assistant coach for about 10 years when I couldn’t get a boss job,” Paul Silas told The Rotary Club of Charlotte during a 2013 speech held. “I’ve actually talked to teams about being head coaches, but I haven’t gotten any. What happened is that I stayed positive. I had a positive attitude. Even though I couldn’t get the job, I said, ‘No, I’m not going to be negative. I’ll be positive.'”
Eventually Silas would take over in Cleveland. He got there in 2003, the same year the Cavaliers drafted James.
“I coached LeBron for two years, his first two years, and LeBron was amazing,” said Paul Silas. “By the time he was 18 he knew Bill Russell, he knew a lot of players who came through that most players his age don’t even know. And he understood the game. I put LeBron up a point because I didn’t have one when he started. He didn’t say a word to me. He just took over the game and we did well.
In time, James would become a champion. It took Paul Silas a few years to reach that level as a player as well.
He was a five-time All-Defensive team selection who averaged 9.4 points and 9.9 rebounds over 16 seasons with the St. Louis and Atlanta Hawks, Phoenix, Boston, Denver and Seattle. Silas won two titles with the Celtics – the first in his 10th season as a player – and a third with the SuperSonics. He averaged 12.8 points and 13.8 rebounds in the 1976 Finals for Boston against the Suns.
“We are respected by everyone who has met him throughout the NBA and are grateful for his lifelong contributions to the game of basketball,” the Suns said Sunday.
Paul Silas played his college basketball at Creighton and averaged 20.5 points and 21.6 rebounds over three seasons. In 2017 he was elected to the College Basketball Hall of Fame.
“I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Creighton legend Paul Silas,” said Bluejays coach Greg McDermott. “His illustrious career as a player and coach will be matched by few.”
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https://6abc.com/paul-silas-houston-rockets-coach-dies/12559375/ Family reveals Paul Silas death through Houston Rockets, where son Stephen Silas is 2nd-generation head coach