Silas Family Mixes Business, Pleasure
It was important for Paul Silas to make it different for his son.
After growing up with a father he described as an alcoholic who never came to see him play basketball, Silas is taking a vastly different approach to his role as a parent.
One of the first things he did after being hired as coach of the Charlotte Hornets was to give his son, Stephen, a job as a professional and college scout.
Now, when the elder Silas needs someone to help chart plays at home games, he can turn to his son. When he needs some information on an opponent or a pro prospect, or when he’s looking for a spare body to help out at practice and his assistants are busy, he can turn to his son.
But most important, however, when he just wants someone to talk with, to go grab some lunch or share a laugh, he can turn to his son.
“He’s my best friend--easily,” Stephen Silas said.
Stephen, who graduated from Brown in 1996, is the youngest of three children and the only son of Paul and Carolyn Silas.
“We are really close,” Paul Silas said. “We talk just about every day regardless of where he is or what he’s doing. We just have a good time together.”
That’s a far cry from the relationship Silas had with his father, Leon. Paul Silas said he had trouble connecting with his father, a laborer who fought alcoholism until his death two years ago. The son can’t recall a single instance where his father came to see him play, either in high school in Oakland; at Creighton, where he led the NCAA with a rebound average of 20.6 in 1963; or in his 16-year NBA career, where he won three championships and established himself as one of the game’s best rebounders.
With that in mind, Silas vowed that his son wouldn’t go through the same lack of parental support when he decided to play shooting guard for Brown’s Bruins.
The elder Silas was an assistant coach with the New Jersey Nets at the time, but he didn’t let that stop him from making the round-trip commute to Providence, R.I., for his son’s home games. If the Nets’ schedule permitted, he also would try to catch some of his son’s Ivy League road games against Princeton and the like.
“I made every one I could,” the elder Silas said. “It was important that he knew he had some support.”
After Stephen Silas finished at Providence with a double major in business management and sociology, he spent three years as the executive assistant with the NBA’s retired players’ association.
In March, his father was elevated to the role of interim coach at Charlotte following Dave Cowens’ resignation. After the season ended, the Hornets gave Silas a four-year, $6 million contract.
Almost immediately, Silas thought about conversations he had been having with his son about Stephen’s desire to get into coaching. Stephen wanted to pick up the telephone and ask his father about going to work for him, but he was hesitant to make the call.
As it turned out, he didn’t have to.
“He called me, as a matter of fact, and asked if I’d like to do it,” Stephen said. “He said it would be a hard thing to do, but it would also be the most rewarding experience I’d ever have. And he was right. I can’t explain how great it’s been so far.”
In addition to having Stephen around at practices and most home games, the elder Silas is sending his son on the road to scout opponents and pro prospects.
“I’m watching him awful close to make sure he does things right. But you know, that’s all I really have to do, just watch him,” Silas said. “I don’t have to say much. He’s really a self-motivated kid. He’s constantly asking me questions. He knows how tough it is being a coach, dealing with players and learning everything.”
The younger Silas also knows there’s a tendency for some people to look at his job and figure he’s just riding his father’s coattails.
“At some point I would have to break away and do my own thing,” he said. “I want to learn from him and take everything from him that I can, but as long as I’m with him, I’ll always be Paul Silas’ son instead of Steve Silas. So at some point I’ll have to break away, but I’m not in any hurry.”
His father figures after two or three years, his son will be ready to take a job as an NBA assistant, moving him closer to his goal of becoming a head coach in the league.
“I’m really happy that he chose this because I think that it’s the best profession anybody could ever be in,” Silas said. “It’s fun and you learn a lot about yourself and about other people.”
And if you play it right, you can strengthen a father-son bond in the process.
“He’s a great person. He’s a friend,” Stephen said. “And he just happens to be my dad.”