Bobcats elevate Paul Silas to coach
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Bobcats removed the interim tag from coach Paul Silas on Wednesday, rewarding him with a one-year extension after he helped get Charlotte into playoff contention following a miserable start under Larry Brown.
"It's a very exciting day for me knowing I'll be here this year and next year and have a chance to really make this team special," Silas said at a news conference. "There's a long way to go, but we're getting there."
Owner Michael Jordan's decision comes less than two months after he fired Brown following Charlotte's 9-19 start that left a fractured team. Guard Stephen Jackson said a change was needed because "nobody wanted to play" for the demanding Brown, who had routinely criticized his players.
The 67-year-old Silas brought a calming influence and a more uptempo, free-flowing style. He's led the Bobcats to a 15-13 mark to get within one game of the Indiana Pacers for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Silas believes the Bobcats have a "very good shot" at making the postseason for the second straight season.
"My main goal when I took this job was to change the atmosphere, change the attitude and make the team more confident," Silas said. "I think we've begun to accomplish those goals."
Silas had been out of the NBA for five years and survived a health scare two years ago that left him with life-threatening blood clots. Healthy again, he's been able to turn a temporary position into a permanent job for the second time in Charlotte with two franchises.
Silas was interim coach of the then-Charlotte Hornets in 1999 after Dave Cowens quit before getting the job full-time. Silas pulled off the feat again with the Bobcats, although he received just a one-year extension through the 2011-12 season.
"I think from ownership on down, we want to give Paul every opportunity to be successful, he and his staff," general manager Rod Higgins said. "But by the same token, we see the short-term improvement."
Silas said he has no problems getting only a one-year commitment.
"That wasn't a concern at all or I wouldn't have taken the job with the interim tag," Silas said. "Now that we've got another year, that's a blessing as far as I'm concerned. It gives us more stability. The players understand now that we're going to be around at least the rest of this year and one more year and they have to buy in."
Several players have blossomed under Silas' guidance, including point guard D.J. Augustin and shooting guard Gerald Henderson. Charlotte also has wins over the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers in the past two weeks.
Higgins said Silas has been "a joy to work with." Silas has won over his players, too, despite being out of coaching since the Cleveland Cavaliers fired him in 2005.
"Most coaches that take over as an interim don't have a winning record because the players know that he is temporary, mostly. They don't listen and it's a downer," Silas said. "But here I came in and established the way we wanted to play.
"I think the main thing is the players changed the way they were playing. From walking the ball up the court to running it up, establishing themselves shooting the basketball much better and having some fun playing."
Silas, a bruising rebounder who played 16 seasons in the NBA, acknowledged there was a time he never thought he'd coach again.
Silas developed blood clots in his left leg in 2008 that led to a six-week stay in intensive care in which he said he "nearly died twice." Blood thinners helped eliminate the clots, but Silas had to turn down an interview offer from the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2009 because of his health.
Silas said he turned the corner about a year ago, but wouldn't have taken any other job because he was living in a home north of Charlotte. Silas still walks slowly and uses a special chair on the bench with arms that help him stand and sit.
"I know that was a concern of Mike and Rod," Silas said of his health. "I haven't had any problems at all. If problems arise, we'll have to make some decisions."
Silas indicated he has a good relationship with Jordan, who hasn't publicly answered questions on his decision to fire Brown. Jordan also didn't attend Wednesday's news conference.
But Jordan, who has a checkered history as an executive, has been more active around the team of late as he neared a decision on Silas. Jordan even practiced with the team last week.
"The greatest player ever coming in is super," Silas insisted. "People ask me, 'Do you really have a problem with that?' Heck no. If he wants to come and play and give the players advice, what better guy can you have doing that?
"Mike says this all the time to me, 'You guys are doing a good job.' He wouldn't say that if he didn't believe it."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press