Bobcats Extend Silas, Remove Interim Tag

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Coach Silas & GM Rod Higgins (John D. Simmons/Charlotte Observer)

The Bobcats announced Wednesday that they’ve removed the “interim” tag from coach Paul Silas and extended his contract through the 2011-12 season.  Terms of the deal have not been disclosed. From Mike Cranston:

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 1 1/2 games 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.”

In a story posted by Cranston on Tuesday as news broke that the Bobcats and Silas were talking extension, Silas reveals that he had dealt with some scary medical issues in recent years:

The 6-foot-7 Silas, a bruising and elite rebounder who played 16 seasons in the NBA, first fell ill after a colonoscopy in 2008. He said doctors performed exploratory surgery to determine why he was feeling poorly, which led to blood clots in his lungs.

The clots then moved to the quadriceps muscle in his left leg.

“I would walk down steps and I would just fall down,” Silas said. “It was touch and go.”

Things got worse and Silas was hospitalized on Christmas Eve 2008 and sedated as doctors tried to solve his medical problems.

“I was in intensive care for about six weeks,” Silas said. “I was out. It was scary for my family. I don’t remember anything during that six-week period.”

Eventually blood thinners eliminated the blood clots and Silas slowly got back to his feet after later problems with his liver. After gaining a lot of weight in part due to the medication, he’s lost 50 pounds and feeling better daily. Doctors later determined the cause of his initial illness was being allergic to anesthesia.

Silas said it wasn’t until about a year ago that he felt good enough to coach.

Kind of a bizarre story, and explains why Silas was out of coaching those years.  Also helps to explain why the Bobcats were careful with initially putting the “interim” tag on Silas.  Clearly, the newly svelte Silas has been able to hold up amidst the travel and daily grind of coaching in the NBA.

Overall, it’s hard to question this move.  The Cats have clearly responded to Silas; he is well-regarded amongst the fanbase; his health appears in order; and (speculation alert) he likely comes at a very reasonable price — not an unimportant concern for the Bobcats.

Not extending him might have undermined the team’s tenuous recent improvement and confidence.  So does this mean the Bobcats are committed to this squad making a playoff run instead of blowing it up at the trade deadline?

It’s a reasonable inference, especially with the absence of trade chatter around the league and the seeming lack of buyers for contracts like Stephen Jackson’s, but not necessarily.  Silas has had a more dramatic effect on the younger players like DJ Augustin, Shaun Livingston and Gerald Henderson who would be part of a new core anyways.  I still wouldn’t rule out a Stephen Jackson, Gerald Wallace, Boris Diaw or Nazr Mohammed trade next week if a great deal comes along.

Lastly, Ron Green Jr. (via Rick Bonnell’s blog) delivers an endorsement by Silas of his son, Assistant Coach Stephen Silas:

“He’s at a point now where he could take over,” Silas said. “He’s helped me immensely. He’s been in this thing for 10 years now. His time is coming. He’ll just have to wait it out… I told him I’d be his assistant behind the bench.”

I’m wary of nepotism, but in certain businesses where the pool of candidates who can get their foot in the door is so limited, it’s unavoidable.  The younger Silas seems to be a good new-school foil for his father at this point.  He’s more of an Xs and Os guy, and is generally the one diagramming plays and schemes during timeouts.  If he’s also got his father’s gift for people skills, he could be an excellent candidate for a head-coaching job in the near future.

-Dr. E

The Argument for the Bobcats to Shed Paul Silas’ Interim Status to Become Head Honcho

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“It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times?!?” (Credit to The Simpsons)

If there’s one Simpsons quote to describe this 2010-11 Charlotte Bobcats season, it’s probably that one, though it would fit better if it were reversed.

Regardless, this season for Charlotte fans has practically been a tale of two extremes. While during some games, they’ve looked like the worst team in the NBA, other nights they look like they’re a talented and competitive team.

Undoubtedly, the largest catalyst for this turnaround has been the coaching change from former head coach Larry Brown to interim head coach Paul Silas.

Larry Brown, though one of the greatest NBA head coaches of all-time, just was not effective as the head coach of the 2010-11 Bobcats. He made questionable lineup and substitution decisions and the team that was once known for swarming defense had acquiesced to a very mediocre status. The promising, much-anticipated season declined into a depressing elongated sigh of a year. The team began with a figurative stumble over their own shoelaces, starting the season with a 1-6 record. Then in December, the stumble became a full-fledged fall onto their face as the team dropped games by 20+ points to teams like Memphis, Philadelphia, Washington, not to mention the elite teams like Boston and Oklahoma City.

Change was necessary. Larry Brown was much more melancholy at post-game press conferences. He seemed to no longer enjoy coaching the games and often had a look of resignation plastered on his face.

That look of resignation shortly transformed into a real resignation, as Larry Brown and the Bobcats came to the decision as what was called a “mutual decision” (*raises single eyebrow*) for him to step down from his head coach position.

And so began the momentous organization transition. Paul Silas was hired as interim head coach with Charles Oakley, Stephen Silas (Paul’s son) and Ralph Lewis as assistant coaches.

The effect was nearly immediate. The Bobcats, though playing the dregs of the NBA’s Eastern Conference, were playing more efficient on offense and defense. Interim head coach Silas had decided to try to develop the rotation’s young talent more than his predecessor and gave Gerald Henderson more playing time. Since Silas’ arrival, the Bobcats are 12-10, a respectable record (especially with two recent games against elite teams). More impressive was their 4-2 record on their recent road trip. Considering the Bobcats have suffered a couple of significant injuries during this time, Paul Silas’ record is all the more remarkable.

And that leads me to the point of this article: the Bobcats should offer Paul Silas a contract to become the official head coach and not just on the current interim basis.

I understand that the CBA negotiations complicate the situation, but at any rate, the Bobcats should get Silas to coach in the following seasons.

Just look at the change in the players’ attitudes from Larry Brown to now under Silas. D.J. Augustin has been unleashed, as he flourishes in a faster, more free-flowing offense. The players are more comfortable because Silas is encouraging the players to have more feedback so he can respond and teach them how to better themselves. Plus, look at the coaching staff that surrounds him. They’re doing an outstanding job helping Silas coach up the players. Just look at Charles Oakley’s work with Kwame Brown: about 9 points per game and 9 rebounds per game in the month of January. And that’s just one example; this team’s success is a testament to their coaching ability.

Another quality of Silas’ coaching that can’t be overlooked is his experience. Since his first year as a head coach for the Charlotte Hornets, Silas has compiled an impressive coaching record of 289-240, or about a 55% winning percentage. Winning 55% of your games is usually good enough to get in the playoffs as the 6th or 7th seed in the Eastern Conference. Speaking of playoffs, Paul has also been to the playoffs four seasons, helping the Charlotte Hornets reach the Eastern Conference Semifinals in 2001. Don’t doubt the man’s experience.

On the flip side, if there was one main qualm I had about Larry Brown’s coaching style, it was his mule-like stubbornness when it came to playing veterans over the young guys. After all, it’s not often when a coach doesn’t play a first round draft pick more than 355 minutes in his rookie season without injury playing a large part in hindering their season (Henderson). And in this domain, Silas exceeds Brown by miles upon miles. Gerald Henderson already has 250 more minutes of playing time this season than he had all of last season. Even in this season alone, Henderson’s minutes per game under Larry Brown doubled in the Paul Silas era (11.78 to 22). And Henderson has responded, dropping double digit point totals in four of the last nine games. Silas has even managed to get Sherron Collins some experience lately, as well as Derrick Brown. Coach Silas inspires confidence in his young players which encourages their development as NBA players.

For those out there who think there’s someone better out there, who do you think is superior that’s also available? Jeff Van Gundy? Puh-leez. Jeff enjoys his cushy job at ESPN too much to leave it for a developing small-market team. Mike Brown? He’s basically Larry Brown Lite – strong defensive principles and very limited offensive coaching. I can’t think of any other coach with as much experience or versatility as Paul Silas.

How about we just ask D.J. Augustin? “I would love to see him be the permanent coach. He’s great for this team organization and the whole city.”

So there you have it. We’ve already seen the blurst of times. With Paul Silas at the helm, I think he gives the Bobcats their greatest shot at getting to the best of times.

Edit: More than just a few readers have brought up Silas’ age. I don’t see it as much of a factor. I’m not saying we wrap up Paul for the next ten years – just three or four. I haven’t heard any talk of Jerry Sloan ever stepping down, and he’s a year older than Silas. Also, George Karl has had some serious health concerns and he’s currently in negotiations with Denver to re-up his contract for another three years.

- Cardboard Gerald

You can follow Cardboard Gerald, Dr. E, and ASChin on Twitter at @CardboardGerald@BaselineDrE, and @BobcatsBaseline. You can find more of Cardboard Gerald’s writing at Bobcats Break and now at Stacheketball.