Paul Silas: Three-Time NBA Champion, Longtime Coach Dies at 79

Paul Silas: Three-Time NBA Champion, Longtime Coach Dies at 79

Paul Silas, a three-time NBA champion who went onto coach in the league for more than three decades, has died, according to longtime Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan. Silas was 79 years old.

Silas, known as one of the preeminent rebounding and defensive forwards of his era, played in the NBA for 16 seasons after he was drafted in the second round by the Hawks in 1964. Despite a tepid start to his career, he went onto to become a double-double machine in stints with the Suns and Celtics, the two teams that he spent the majority of his time with as a player.

Silas won two NBA championships (1974, ’76) in Boston as well as one with the SuperSonics in ’79. He was named an All-Star twice, in ’72 and ’75, and was a five-time All-Defensive player, earning first-team honors twice (’75 and ’76) and second-team honors three times (1971–73).

Silas ended his playing career in Seattle, where he won his third and final championship ring in 1979. He retired after the ’79–80 season, having averaged 9.4 points and 9.9 rebounds in 1,254 career games.

Prior to playing in the NBA, Silas emerged as a budding star at Creighton. He set an NCAA record for the most rebounds across three seasons and averaged a nation-leading 20.6 rebounds per game 1962–63 season. Silas was inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2017, and his No. 35 jersey is retired by Creighton.

Following his days on the court as a player, Silas made the move to the sidelines where he became a coach for the better part of three decades. He served as head coach of the San Diego Clippers, Charlotte and New Orleans Hornets, Cleveland Cavaliers and Charlotte Bobcats, and he also worked as an assistant with the Nets, Knicks and Suns. 

Perhaps most notably, Silas was the first NBA coach for superstar LeBron James while with the Cavaliers during the 2003–04 season. Silas was fired 64 games into the ’04–05 campaign and never made the playoffs while with Cleveland. 

Silas did lead four different Hornets teams to the postseason between 1999 and 2003. The furthest he advanced in the playoffs as a coach was the conference semifinals. 

Silas, the father of current Rockets coach Stephen Silas, ended his coaching career with a 387–488 overall record.

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