Paul Silas Rumors
The players mostly are forgotten now, but in the summer of 1991, the Knicks brought a group of hopefuls to the Catskills to play against an equally non-descript team of Philadelphia 76ers wannabes. One guy stood out: this hulking 6-foot-7 bruiser, Anthony Mason, who tossed the Sixers around like rag dolls. “Mase was tough. He didn’t give up anything. He wanted to play. Even then, players weren’t nearly as tough as he was,” said Paul Silas, a three-time champ as a player who was a Knicks assistant and later Mason’s head coach in Charlotte.
Mason did it his way. He frequently sent ballboys or locker-room attendants for a couple pregame hot dogs, a habit which didn’t endear him to Knicks nutritionists. One game, the ballboy was intercepted. The hot dogs were removed from the buns and replaced with bananas. Mason was not amused. But his anger would fade far quicker than the bruises he inflicted on opponents. And he wasn’t just a brute. Silas turned him into a point forward in Charlotte, a far more demanding role, and Mason handled it perfectly.
One practice, Silas noticed James’s mood seemed down. It was routine for Silas’s Cavs to shoot 100 free throws before every practice, and James was refusing to shoot. Silas called the star rookie to his office. From his days with the Celtics and Sonics, Silas knew that respect among players had to be earned. If James was to become a leader on this team, he needed to prove it. The older players wouldn’t follow him just because of his talent. “You’ve got to change,” Silas told him. “What they’re saying means nothing to you. You’re going to be one of the best players ever.” “He changed,” Silas said, noting how James embraced his leadership role on the team. “He changed his attitude and then we got a chance to trade Ricky [Davis] and those guys.”
Silas coached the Hornets until 2003, piloting the franchise through its move to New Orleans. He was fired after leading the team to a strong 47-35 record, but then falling to the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the playoffs. Silas laughed when he recalled how he found out about the firing. Reporters had arrived at his door to ask about it, and Silas simply walked next door to team owner George Shinn’s house. “You don’t want to kick my ass, do you?” Shinn asked, according to Silas. “I grabbed him and said, ‘George, you gave me nothing but a great career. I love you man.’ We became buddies after that, but he thought we were going to go at it.”
Sterling failed to make deferred compensation payments to players and coaches, he missed payments into the players’ pension fund, and he skimped on the franchise’s operating costs. “We had no practice facility,” Silas said. “He didn’t want to spend money for anybody to do any taping [on players’ankles]. We fired the guy and then I had to do it.”
Silas once left for China on a National Basketball Players Association exhibition tour. When he returned, he found that all of his belongings from his office had been moved into a hallway. His office had been given to Patricia Simmons, a former model and Sterling companion whom the boss had hired as an assistant general manager. “That was a trip, man,” Silas said. “She knew nothing about basketball. Then the newspaper guys started writing about her, so she started calling me into her office, trying to get me to explain what offense was, how does shooting go and dribbling and all that. I just said, ‘I can’t talk about this. I can tell you, but you’re just not going to know.’”