A New Day in Charlotte
New head coach Paul Silas provides fresh change.
by Jay King / @CelticsTown
These aren’t Larry Brown’s Charlotte Bobcats. Not anymore. They’re Paul Silas’ Charlotte Bobcats, and the team already looks quite different from the one Brown left.
First, there’s the mentality.
“People [call it] the green light,” said Gerald Henderson, who has already established a new career high (19 points) during Silas’ brief tenure. “I think it’s more just, we know how to play basketball. We can all play. We don’t have any selfish guys on our team, we all look for each other. So the green light, yeah, if you’re open [Coach Silas] wants you to shoot. If you don’t shoot he’s going to take you out of the game. He’s made that clear. So we’ve just gotta look for each other and take the shots that are there. It’s almost as simple as that.”
Comparing Brown to Silas is like comparing Billy Madison to Good Will Hunting. Two good movies, but they succeed in completely different ways.
“[Coach Silas is] more laid back than Coach Brown. Coach Brown – you know – it’s just two different personalities,” said Gerald Wallace.
“Coach Brown as more of a coach who wants you to run the offense, run it all the way through, slow the ball down, execute,” shared DJ Augustin. “Coach Silas wants you to push, run, and shoot the first open shot. That’s how we’ve been playing lately, and I think we’ve done a great job of doing that.”
Does the additional freedom help you, DJ?
“I think it helps everybody, because we’re able to use our talents and our skills now. I think it’s helping the whole team.”
Added Henderson, “There are a lot of differences. I think they’re both really good coaches, have had really good coaching careers. I think the biggest change is the pace of play. We have a more up-tempo offense.
“Our defense has been pretty solid throughout the year, but [Coach Silas] wants us to find the first open shot. Coach Brown was a little different. We could push it, but if we didn’t find anything we were going to get into something.”
Silas explains his coaching style simply. He wants his players to remain confident, or, for those who lacked confidence during Brown’s reign, to regain it. So far, said Silas, so good.
“I think so,” he said. “As evidenced by the fact that DJ Augustin’s averaging 20 points per game since I took over. Everybody else, too. Take a look at Gerald Henderson. He had his career high. I have a philosophy: If you’re open, you shoot. That breeds confidence. It’s been a kind of revelation for these guys, I think. If the coach has confidence in you, you have to have confidence in yourself. That’s what’s happening.”
“I felt that if the players came out and played with energy and with confidence, we’d be able to score and give ourselves a chance to win. And that’s what’s happened,” Silas added.
After last night’s loss to the Boston Celtics, the Bobcats’ record is now 6-3 under Silas. If the season ended today, Charlotte’s 15-22 mark would fall percentage points shy of the Eastern Conference’s eighth Playoff seed. Not ideal by any means. But progress is progress, and the players like how the post-Brown era has begun.
“We’re more confident,” explained Shaun Livingston. “We’re getting more overall team production, and that’s the biggest thing. Because guys are going to have off nights, but we come together.”
Livingston added, “Our production [determines] how much playing time we get, and it’s fair. We go out and try to earn ours.”
Was Coach Brown also fair?
“It’s hard to answer that question,” Livingston said. “It’s one of those things where it’s a difference in technique. They’re both strategic in their own ways.”
One of the first things Silas did upon getting hired was to call on Charles Oakley, noted tough guy and former enforcer. Just weeks before Silas hired Oakley as his assistant coach, the Boston Celtics’ Ray Allen wondered why Oakley didn’t have a spot in the League. Silas figured Oakley’s experience and grit could help his team. According to Doc Rivers, the Silas and Oakley duo makes Charlotte’s coaching staff the League’s biggest and baddest.
“He’s right,” said Silas. “Oak anyway. I’m too old to do anything to anybody now. But Oak certainly. Oak is doing a great job with the big men. [A couple of] my players had some words the other day. [Oak] walked up on them, and I said, ‘Y’all better watch it.’”
Just last spring, Silas, who compiled a 355-400 record during head coaching stints for the Clippers, Hornets and Cavaliers, doubted he would ever coach another NBA team. Silas wanted to remain close to home, so Charlotte was the only team to which he would have considered returning; however, he figured the job was Brown’s and Brown’s alone.
While Brown coached the team, what did Silas do to keep himself busy?
Actually, that’s not entirely true.
Silas’ neighbor had a 13-year-old son who played basketball; the neighbor was the head coach, and Silas the assistant.
“[The head coach] left to go on vacation,” said Silas, “and I had to coach the championship game for 13 year olds. And I lost. For three days, Xs and Os were running through my head. I’m saying, If this is what happens with 13 year olds, think what’s going to happen if I get back to the League.”
“His son was my best player, and he left,” Silas said, before adding with sarcasm and a wide smile, “Thanks a lot. Just what I needed.”
From coaching 13-year olds to attempting to revive a struggling NBA team, Silas’ journey during the past year has surprised even Silas. Ultimately, Silas’ time in Charlotte won’t be measured by how his players enjoy their additional freedom. It will be measured by wins and losses, and improvement.
It will take time before Silas leaves his Charlotte legacy. One thing, though, is certain.
For better or worse, Paul Silas is no Larry Brown.