CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WJZY) – Former Charlotte Hornets and Bobcats coach Paul Silas often told his friends, “If I ever get into a fight with a bear, save the bear.”
Remembering Paul Silas: ‘You just knew he had your back’
“You better help that bear for sure,” smiled former Bobcats/Hornets guard Kemba Walker. [Silas] was definitely very tough.”
Those that came to honor Silas at a memorial in Charlotte on Saturday knew it. There were tons of stories, like the time Silas, then coaching the Bobcats and nearing his 70s, challenged one of his players to a fight.
“Had him up against the locker,” remembered Walker’s former teammate Gerald Henderson. “It just shows how much he cares.”
But ultimately, Silas didn’t fool anyone. As they said, underneath that towering 6-foot-7-inch frame was an equally big heart. Hence why so many of his coaching peers, and former players came to pay their last respects to Silas, who died last month in Denver at the age of 79.
“He deserved to be honored,” said Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Member and friend Alex English. “He was a wonderful man, a wonderful coach and a wonderful father. He was an icon in the NBA.”
The pro basketball career of Silas spanned almost 50 years and pretty much era was present at the memorial. In addition to several members of the Hornets organization including head coach Steve Clifford, there was former Boston Globe writer Bob Ryan who covered Silas as a player on the Celtics in the 70s, current Pacers coach Rick Carlisle, who coached with Silas as a fellow assistant with the Nets in the 90s, and Baron Davis, who played for Silas in with the Hornets later that decade.
“I watched him kick four players out of a game in my career,” Davis said during his speech at the memorial. “It was the most entertaining thing in my life.”
Then there was short-time New Orleans Hornet member Robert Pack who remembers the time Silas put him in his place in the nicest possible way.
“We were in a playoff series. I said, ‘Coach I want to chase Allen Iverson.’ I just remember him looking at me and then he asked, ‘What my favorite restaurant is?’ Like, ‘Let’s move on to something [else].’”
Three-time NBA Champ, two-time NBA All-Star and a once-in-a-lifetime individual.
“The name says it all. He was a champion in every sense of the word, and he will be missed,” said Hornets assistant coach Rex Walters.