The basketball world is mourning the death Paul Silas, one of the most storied figures of the NBA’s modern era.
Silas, 79, passed away on Sunday of cardiac arrest, his family announced. In life, basketball wasn’t just Silas’ vocation but his passion. A College Basketball Hall of Famer, he played three years at Creighton where he averaged a double-double. From there, he forged a path for four decades in the Association, 16 as a player for the St. Louis (now Atlanta) Hawks, Phoenix Suns, Boston Celtics and the former Seattle Supersonics. In the pros, he averaged 9.4 points and 9.9 rebounds and won three chips, two with the Celtics and the third with Seattle, and he was a two-time All Star. He was also a president of the National Basketball Players Association, the NBA’s players union.
In a nod to how much the game has changed since then, Silas retired as the NBA’s oldest player in 1980; today’s NBA stars routinely play into their late 30s and beyond. LeBron James, who was drafted from high school at age 18, is still playing at age 37 with no indication he plans to retire soon. Tim Duncan retired at age 40 after playing 19 seasons. Dirk Nowitzki played 21 seasons for the Dallas Mavericks and hung ‘em up at age 40.
Retirement, though, was hardly the end of basketball for Silas, nor was it the end of winning. He was immediately hired as head coach of the then-San Diego Clippers. That stint only lasted three years and Silas would be an assistant rather than a head coach for the next decade afterward. But he would lead NBA teams again. He was head coach of the Charlotte Bobcats from 1998 until 2002, the New Orleans Hornets for the 2002-2003 season, the Cleveland Cavaliers—where he was James’ NBA head coach—from 2003 until 2005 and the Charlotte Bobcats from 2010 until his retirement in 2012.
He notched a total of 400 wins as an NBA head coach.
Silas is the father of current Houston Rockets head coach Stephan Silas.