Stephen Silas doesn’t deserve this.
After 20 seasons on the NBA’s sidelines, concealing other coaches’ deficiencies and orchestrating the most efficient offense in the history of the league, the 48-year-old son of Paul Silas was rewarded with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that far too often eludes his Black peers: He finally became a head coach.
But his dream job was nothing more than a mirage.
Shortly after accepting the reins to the Houston Rockets, his All-Star point guard, Russell Westbrook, demanded a trade and was shipped out to Washington in exchange for a fallen star who hadn’t seen NBA action in two years—two years!—because of a nasty Achilles tear.
Then shortly after that, his franchise player, James Harden, proceeded to skip out on training camp to go party with rappers in the middle of a fucking pandemic and do everything humanly possible to force his own trade out of town. This included playing out of shape, getting fined $50,000 for ignoring COVID-19 protocols to go run the streets and publicly shitting on his teammates.
The situation became so toxic that not only did John Wall stand up for his teammates and return fire, but The Beard was exiled from the team before he was eventually jettisoned to the Brooklyn Nets. And just when you thought this saga would end and the Rockets would finally get their bearings, Caris LeVert—Houston’s crown jewel in the Harden trade—was shipped out in favor of former All-Star Victor Oladipo (more on him later).
So for those keeping track at home, Silas—again, a first-time head coach—is still somehow supposed to win in the midst of all of this upheaval and turmoil, but it gets worse. Because mere weeks before Silas even got hired, Houston’s general manager, Daryl Morey, aka the guy who was supposed to help Silas by constructing a championship roster, “quit” to go run the 76ers.
You can’t make this shit up.
But don’t worry, Stephen! Because the guy they hired to replace Morey, Rafael Stone—another Black man who has paid his dues—caught one of the biggest fish in the free agency pool: former Pistons center Christian Wood. And he snatched up Boogie Cousins, too!
A Wall-Cousins reunion?! This is amazing!
Until it wasn’t.
The Rockets realized almost immediately that Boogie and Wood can’t play together. So with Wood dropping 20 and 10 a night, while Boogie looked like a shell of a shell of himself, the four-time All-Star quickly became expendable and was unceremoniously dismissed in February. But Houston still has Wood, right? Not exactly. Because despite his tremendous potential, he’s missed a significant chunk of this season due to an ugly ankle injury.
There’s also the fact that Oladipo (I told y’all I’d come back to him) declined a two-year, $45 million extension and reportedly wants out of Houston, defensive stalwart PJ Tucker demanded his own trade out of town (and it was granted last week) and COVID-19 has turned the NBA into a shitshow all season.
All of this would be a lot for any coach, but it feels especially unfair to Silas considering head coaching opportunities are few and far between for Black assistants, and literally every single thing that could go wrong for the Rockets has.
So on Sunday, after the Rockets extended their franchise-record losing streak to 20 games (yes, you read that correctly), it was heartbreaking to watch Silas finally crack during his post-game press conference:
This man does not deserve this shit.
But perhaps inspired by seeing this clip go viral, or maybe just fed up with all the mounting losses and chaos, the Rockets looked like a completely different team on Monday night. And at halftime, when Daniel House—yes, that Daniel House—knocked down a 51-footer at the buzzer, Silas could sense something about this game was different.
“I was like, ‘Whoa, maybe this is the night,’” he told reporters afterward. “It felt like something special had happened. For us, something special happening is a win after so many losses in a row.”
His intuition was correct. His Rockets would finally—finally—end their 20-game skid and beat a Raptors squad facing its own share of challenges this season 117-99. Also of note, four different Rockets players scored at least 19 points. There was also this touching moment between Wall and Silas after Houston secured the win:
“It’s like indescribable for a win in March of this crazy season, but I’m just so proud of the guys,” Silas said during his post-game press conference. “When you’re going through it and fighting so hard and seeing the disappointment in the players’ faces after loss after loss after loss, and to go into the locker room after today’s game and everybody is so happy and joyous is just super cool and great.”
Listen to the genuine joy in this man’s voice, y’all. Damn.
“I just told him, ‘We finally got one,’” Wall told reporters. “I told him I’m riding with him no matter what, and he said the same thing to me. No coach wants to deal with all this adversity he’s had to deal with in their first year. I’m happy for him.”
I’m happy for Silas, too.
But I’m also concerned that he could end up being the scapegoat. We’ve seen plenty of other Black coaches finally get their shot, fail for whatever reason, then never get the reins to a team again.
Let’s hope this rookie coach doesn’t suffer a similar fate.