One of the best fringe benefits about covering professional sports since 1995, is that I have had the privilege of meeting a lot of men who were heroes to me during my childhood and teenage years. I am pleased to say that almost to a man, they were kind and gracious, whether they were a former player, coach, manager or broadcaster. I can not readily recall any experience when I walked away without enjoying the experience.
I had the pleasure of covering one of my teenage heroes for almost two seasons when former Boston Celtics forward Paul Silas coached the Cleveland Cavaliers. Silas along with John Havelicek and Dave Cowens led my hometown Celtics to two NBA Titles in 1974 and 1976. From my vantage point he was one of the toughest players to ever hit the hardwood and he epitomized the gritty blue-collar team that Boston was at that point. Although I never told the coach that I was a fan of his as a player, he may have caught on as I often asked him questions on and off the record about those days.
Paul Silas is one of the most genial personable men I have ever met in any profession and he and many of us in the Cleveland media at the time shared a lot of laughs. However, he is not a “Teddy-Bear” at the age of 68-years-old; more like a “Grizzlie” as I saw flashes of that anger directed a couple of times at other members of the media. The reporters quickly backed down in both cases.
It was his temper that got him fired by new Cavaliers Team Owner Dan Gilbert in March of 2005, when the coach refused to play Jeff McGinnis; who was his best choice at point guard at time. Silas refused to budge and Gilbert sent him packing; which led to the Cavaliers falling out of the Playoff chase after looking like they were a lock for the Post Season just a couple of weeks before.
Silas returned to the Association last season after Larry Brown and the Charlotte Bobcats parted ways. After going to the Playoffs for the first time in franchise history under Brown the previous year; things fell apart last season and Silas came in to at least settle down the atmosphere. The players responded to the big man and although the season was lost they had some good moments during the rest of the campaign. Bobcats owner Michael Jordan along with his President of Basketball Operations Rod Higgins decided to blow the team up and would trade Gerald Wallace to the Portland Trail Blazers and Steven Jackson to the Milwaukee Bucks. They drafted two players with pretty big up-sides in point guard Kemba Walker and big man Bismack Biyombo last June.
Charlotte realized this was going to be a very hard campaign for the club; however I don’t think that they believed it would be as brutal as it has been. The squad is now 7-54 for the year after getting destroyed by the Chicago Bulls Wednesday night 100-68. The frustration the players and the coach are feeling must be so thick in their locker room after each mounting loss that you could actually hold it in your hand. Times like those tax even the hardiest of souls.
The situation reached a boiling point on Sunday after Charlotte lost to the Celtics according to reports from the “Charlotte Observer” as well as “USA-Today“. Silas got ticked off that big man Tyrus Thomas was hanging in the hallway talking with some Celtics players rather than being in the locker room so the coach could talk to the team before addressing the media. According to the report he shoved the power forward towards his locker room and the two had to be separated.
Higgins admitted the altercation took place after it had originally surfaced on “Yahoo.com” earlier in the week. Higgins told the Observer “You know how it is in the heat of the moment these things happen in the course of an NBA season. This isn’t the last time something like this will happen in the league. We’ve handled it internally, talked to both the player and the coach.”
If a fight had actually occurred of course the 25-year-old 6′ 10″ forward would have taken his coach out, however Silas would have given the big man something to remember before he fell and there is no doubt that he would not have backed down. If “40 is the new 30” then Silas may show that in his case “68 is the new 50.” The Bobcats coach is still 6′ 7″ and most likely is about 50 pounds over his playing weight; we are not talking about some fragile geriatric in this case.
I literally laughed out loud when I read the initial reports; thinking too myself that the man has not mellowed one bit since his days on the court. Thankfully the two were separated when they were, but it shows that Silas even at his age is one very tough man.