I wrote a column about former Charlotte Hornets coach Paul Silas this week. Silas coached the last NBA team from Charlotte to make the playoffs -- the then-Charlotte Hornets, in 2002.
I knew Silas had settled back in our area once his coaching gig with the Hornets and then the Cleveland Cavaliers had ended (he was LeBron's first head coach in Cleveland). But I hadn't thought too much about him until one Saturday a few weeks ago.
I coach my kids on various youth sports teams from time to time -- basketball, soccer and tennis, mostly. On that day, I was supervising my 9-year-old and 7 other kids on his team in a frantic youth basketball game at a church in eastern Lincoln County, where I live.
Then the biggest man in the room started walking toward me while the game was going on. The sunlight was behind him and I couldn't tell who it was -- but he was about 6-foot-7 and imposing, until he flashed a dazzling smile.
That was Paul Silas. He was watching youth basketball, having come to support his own personal trainer, Jonathan Vance, a friend of mine who helps run a wonderful Upward basketball league for hundreds of kids on a volunteer basis. We chatted as the kids ran back and forth. (Silas also coaches youth basketball now -- as an assistant!)
Then Silas got to watch me coach, instead of the way I watched him for several years with the Charlotte Hornets in the old Charlotte Coliseum. I really showed off, too -- I burned all my timeouts, diagrammed ball screens, got my kids to flop on charge calls, called out nonsensical names of plays -- I mean, I had it going!
No, I'm just kidding. My style of youth coaching is mostly to roll out the ball, let them play, make sure someone brought the postgame snacks and do damage control as necessary.
But it was nice to catch up with Silas during that game, and it made me think that Silas might be a pretty good "Where Are They Now?" column at some point. Silas is one of those classy guys that just about everyone likes, even though he could be a very no-nonsense coach. Just a good fellow, and one that could have lived anywhere but who I'm glad settled in the Charlotte area.