Three-time NBA champion, longtime coach Paul Silas dies at 79

Basketball taught Paul Silas how to be patient.

As a player, he waited 10 years to win his first title. As a coach, he waited 15 years for his second chance at the job. As a father, he waited 20 years for his son to have the opportunity to lead a team.

“I’ve always tried to stay positive,” Silas said in 2013, “and I think that usually works.”

Silas, a player, coach and president of the National Basketball Players Association, has passed away, his family announced Sunday. Silas, 79, is the son of Stephen Silas, who coaches the Houston Rockets.

“He combines nearly 40 years of accumulated knowledge as an NBA player and coach with an innate understanding of how to combine discipline with never-ending positivity,” said Charlotte Hornets president Michael Jordan. Paul’s enthusiasm and engaging personality are accompanied by anecdotes from every occasion. He was one of the all-time greats in our game and we will miss him.”

Silas’ daughter, Paula Silas-Guy, told The New York Times that her father died of cardiac arrest Saturday night. The Boston Globe first reported Silas’ death.

“We mourn the passing of former NBA All-Star and head coach Paul Silas,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “Paul’s enduring contribution to the game is reflected in the many players and coaches he has inspired, including his son, Rockets head coach Stephen Sellars. Our deepest condolences to Paul’s family.”

Tributes began to arrive rapidly. New Orleans held a moment of silence for Silas ahead of Sunday’s game against Phoenix, and both Suns head coach Monty Williams and Charlotte coach Steve Clifford spoke at length about Silas’s role in their careers. role in.

“To my family, he is God. He is larger than life,” Clifford said.

Silas began his professional career in 1980 with a three-year stint as the head coach of the then-San Diego Clippers. After more than a decade as an assistant coach, he returned as head coach and spent time with the Charlotte Hornets, New Orleans Hornets, Cleveland Cavaliers and Charlotte Bobcats.

He led four of those teams to the playoffs, winning a full 400 games — 387 in the regular season and 13 in the playoffs.

On Sunday night, the Rockets host Milwaukee. It’s unclear how long Stephen Sellars will be out of the team. The Rockets plan to let John Lucas lead the team on an interim basis, while the Silas family grieves.

“His engaging demeanor and huge personality have inspired legions of NBA players and coaches,” the Cavaliers said of Paul Silas in a team statement. “Our deepest condolences to Silas’ family and all those who loved him. RIP coach!”

Stephen Silas entered the NBA world while his father was coaching in Charlotte, starting as a senior scout and eventually working as an assistant on his father’s Hornets in 2000. It took Stephen Silas two decades to get a chance to be a head coach, and Houston hired him in 2020.

“My dad, obviously, is my number one. A mentor, someone I can count on, who asks me questions,” Stephen Sellars said of his coaching journey in a 2021 documentary produced by the Rockets. when said. “He really takes my opinion seriously, which is kind of weird for me, I’m still young and I don’t have much experience.”

Stephen Silas held on for a long time before getting his big chance. He saw that his father had also waited a long time for the job he wanted. Paul Silas was fired by the San Diego Clippers in 1983 and didn’t get another head coaching opportunity until 1999 — when Dave Cowens, who Paul Silas was an assistant coach at the time, left after Charlotte’s 4-11 start Charlotte for the 1998-99 season.

“I’m optimistic. I’m positive,” Paul Silas said in 2013, speaking at the Rotary Club of Charlotte. ‘I’ll be positive.’”

Ultimately, Silas would take over Cleveland. He got there in 2003, the same year the Cavaliers drafted James.

“I coached LeBron for two years, and his first two years, LeBron was unbelievable,” Paul Silas said. “At 18, he knew Bill Russell, he knew a lot of players his age didn’t even know. He understood the game.”

James will eventually be the champion. It took Paul Silas a few years to get to that level as a player, too.

A five-time All-Defensive Team selection, he averaged 9.4 points and 9.9 rebounds in 16 seasons in St. Louis. Lewis and the Atlanta Hawks, Phoenix, Boston, Denver and Seattle. Silas won two championships with the Celtics — the first in his 10th season as a player — and a third with the Sonics. At 36, he was the oldest player in the NBA when he retired. As union president, Silas saw an era of growing rosters, rising salaries and improved benefits.

“He is respected by all who have encountered him throughout the NBA, and we are grateful for his lifetime of contributions to the game of basketball,” the Suns said Sunday.

Paul Silas played his college basketball at Creighton, averaging 20.5 points and 21.6 rebounds in three seasons. He was inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2017.

“His illustrious career as a player and coach will be matched by few,” Blue Jays coach Greg McDermott said.


Associated Press sports writer Brett Martel in New Orleans contributed.


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