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Paul Silas Dies at 79; College Basketball Hall of Famer Won 3 NBA Championships

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVDecember 11, 2022

Charlotte Bobcats coach Paul Silas argues a call during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Chicago Bulls in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday, April 18, 2012. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
AP Photo/Chuck Burton

Former NBA star, College Basketball Hall of Famer and longtime NBA coach Paul Silas died on Sunday. He was 79.

Houston Rockets @HoustonRockets

The Fertitta Family and the Rockets organization are deeply saddened by the passing of Paul Silas, father of Rockets head coach Stephen Silas.<br><br>Our heartfelt thoughts are with Stephen and his family during this difficult time. <a href="https://t.co/EOMSjv23t5">pic.twitter.com/EOMSjv23t5</a>

Adrian Wojnarowski @wojespn

Michael Jordan on the passing of Paul Silas <a href="https://t.co/gBwD1QZ2tL">pic.twitter.com/gBwD1QZ2tL</a>

A cause of death has not been released publicly at this time.

Tributes poured in from NBA and college basketball Twitter following news of his death:

Earvin Magic Johnson @MagicJohnson

RIP to Hall of Famer, 3X NBA Champion, and my guy Paul Silas. Paul made a huge contribution to the game of basketball and will be sorely missed! Cookie and I send our prayers and condolences to the entire Silas family ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿพโค๏ธ

Marc Stein @TheSteinLine

LeBron's first coach in Cleveland, one of the great rebounders of his day at just 6-7 and a towering NBA figure. Paul Silas will be missed so much ... sending love and warmest wishes to Rockets coach Stephen Silas and their whole family. <a href="https://t.co/U5LSsEQjzc">https://t.co/U5LSsEQjzc</a>

Rex Chapman๐Ÿ‡๐Ÿผ @RexChapman

Paul Silas was a giant in basketball circles. A great man. Was fortunate to spend a couple of seasons with Paul when he was an asst coach with the Suns. I don't know anyone with a bad word to say about him โ€” ever. A sad day. My heart is with Stephen and the family. Rest, Paul. <a href="https://t.co/Exclr9tkz8">https://t.co/Exclr9tkz8</a>

Bill Simmons @BillSimmons

RIP Paul Silas - beloved Celtic, beloved teammate, class act, huge part of Cowens/Hondo era, 2-time champ (then a 3rd in Seattle), played 16 yrs back when nobody played that long. My dad loved Silas + still complains that we didn't pay him in 1976. A rare Auerbach blunder.

Mike Greenberg @Espngreeny

So sad to hear about Paul Silas, who was as rugged a rebounder as the NBA ever saw, and a basketball lifer, in all the best ways. Won three championships and played, and later coached, with great passion and toughness. Condolences to his son Stephen and all his family. <a href="https://t.co/OSvftBXCRN">pic.twitter.com/OSvftBXCRN</a>

David Aldridge @davidaldridgedc

So sad to hear of the passing of the legendary Paul Silas. A giant of a man on and off the court, who was always generous and honest with his time. My condolences to Stephen and his family. RIP.

Marc J. Spears @MarcJSpears

My condolences and prayers to Stephen Silas and the Silas family. Coach Silas was very intelligent, had a strong presence and a great sense of humor. The Oakland McClymonds High star was a 3-time NBA champ and had 387 coaching wins. Truly a giant of a human. Rest in Peace, Coach. <a href="https://t.co/K9vaAAivLM">https://t.co/K9vaAAivLM</a>

mario elie @marioelie1

My condolences go out to Coach Silas and his family. Paul Silas was a very good player and coach..RIP ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿพ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿพ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿพ๐Ÿ€ <a href="https://twitter.com/HoustonRockets?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@HoustonRockets</a>

Coach McDermott @cucoachmac

I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Creighton legend, Paul Silas. His illustrious career as a player and coach, will be matched by few. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends during this difficult time. ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿ™ <a href="https://t.co/YYNwkYTQmU">pic.twitter.com/YYNwkYTQmU</a>

Tom Crean @TomCrean

I get in the car, turn on <a href="https://twitter.com/SiriusXMNBA?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@SiriusXMNBA</a> and hear an interview with Paul Silas, and think this is great. Realize it's from years ago and immediately think the worst. See <a href="https://twitter.com/wojespn?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@wojespn</a> tweet announcing his passing and realize I was unbelievably lucky to watch him Coach + shake his hand.

Myck Miller @MyckMiller

Paul Silas was a champion, trail blazer, and gentle giant. I have fond memories of Coach when I was growing up in Cleveland. He would let me shoot around on the Cavs practice court and gave me tips on how to make left handed layups. Rest In Power Coach! โœŠ๐Ÿพ๐Ÿค๐Ÿ•Š๏ธ <a href="https://t.co/88iTcVZumX">pic.twitter.com/88iTcVZumX</a>

Silas spent his college career at Creighton (1961-64), averaging 20.5 points per game in his three seasons. He was a second-round pick of the St. Louis Hawks in the 1964 NBA draft.

He spent 16 seasons in the NBA with the Hawks, Phoenix Suns, Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets and Seattle Supersonics, averaging 9.4 points and 9.9 rebounds for his career. He was a three-time champion, a two-time All-Star and a five-time All-Defensive selection (twice on the first team, three times on the second team).

"He wasn't a great shooter, but he was such a solid player," former Celtics player, head coach and broadcaster Tommy Heinsohn told Grantland in 2014 regarding Silas. "He could pass and rebound and defend. In an up-tempo game, he could score as well as anybody. What he did in his career is really max out what he was."

After his playing career Silas transitioned to coaching, going 387-488 in stints with the San Diego Clippers (1980-81 to 1982-83) and Charlotte Hornets (1998-99 to 2001-02; 2010-11 to 2011-12), New Orleans Hornets (2002-03) and the Cleveland Cavaliers (2003-04 to 2004-05), where he coached LeBron James.

"He was a lot better coach than his record, that's for sure," longtime NBA head coach Don Nelson told Grantland of Silas in 2014. "There's only one guy that wins it every year. There's 29 other guys that are going to end up in a lesser position. His teams always played hard and competed. He was tough, but respected."

Coaching runs in the familyโ€”his son, Stephen Silas, is the current head coach of the Houston Rockets.