The Son Also Rises

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The first thing you notice about Stephen Silas is the smile. He’s completely disarming.

The second thing is how much different his father comes across. If Paul Silas is one thing, it’s intimidating. Silas jokes with his team and reporters, but there’s no doubt about who’s boss.

At 31, Stephen is still one of the youngest assistant coaches in the NBA. At 27, he was the youngest. That was back in the days with the tumultuous Hornets organization; when he began learning his father’s system and coaching methods inside and out. But Stephen kept the cool demeanor.

As a basketball player, Silas was the captain of his squad as a senior with Brown University. An Ivy-leaguer with basketball skills and a prolific lineage was bound to be on the fast track to success; that’s where Stephen finds himself.

Silas also earned his stripes working for the Silas spent three years as the Assistant Executive Director of the National Basketball Retired Players Association (NBRPA) in Rhode Island.

Now, Stephen Silas is balancing his life between the hectic routine of the NBA season and the overwhelming responsibility of fatherhood. He and his wife, Keryl, had their first child this summer, Kyler Elyse.

Silas was just finished working on free throws with Anderson Varejao and playing a game of H-O-R-S-E with advanced scout Wes Wilcox when he took some time out to do a One-on-One for clevelandcavaliers.com.


Do you and your father have a good cop/bad cop thing going with the Cavaliers?
Stephen Silas: I wouldn’t necessarily say that. I’m just kind of like any other assistant – a go-between between the players and the head coach. I communicate with the players a little better because I’m the same age and same generation as those guys. So if it’s a good cop/bad cop in that sense, maybe so.

How are you the same as your father? Different?
SS: I’m the same in that I’m competitive. I can’t stand losing and I’ll do anything it takes to win. Different, he’s a little bit louder than I am and has an intimidating presence. But, it’s just two different styles. I’m just a more laid-back person.

How about as a player?
SS: I was a shooter. (Laughing.) I was a shooter-scorer and he was a rebounder. So exact opposites again.

Was the Silas family a big basketball family growing up?
SS: Yeah, just by association. My sisters didn’t play. I’m the only one who played. But it that’s what puts food on the table, that’s what you’re interested in.

What are your coaching aspirations?:
SS: I’d love to be a head coach. I want to be the best at whatever I do, so I’d love to be a head coach. I’d love to stay in the NBA and work my way up. I’d like to stay around, develop a good reputation in the league, work as hard as I possibly can and things will take care of themselves.

What’’s your role as an assistant coach?
SS: Game preparation. We split the team up three ways, so I work with the guards as far as individual work. And with the offense, since I’ve been around so long with my dad and his system, I know it backwards and forwards, so I’m in charge of that also.

Can you explain your father’s system to a layman, like me?
SS: It basically starts with all five players above the free throw line. The point guard starts above the three-point line and the other four are lined up across the free throw line on each wing and the elbows. There’s a bunch of different options.

But the UCLA-like cut is when the point guard passes to the wing and cuts off the elbow and there are a ton of options: cross-screens, diagonal cross-screens and there’s all kinds of stuff that comes from that. But the initial cut – the UCLA cut – that’s where the offense comes from.

How have you melded your time working with the Retired Players Association and the work you’re doing now?
SS: When I was with the RPA, I did a little bit of everything. We took a team to China and played against the Chinese national team. Other days I’d be stuffing envelopes. There was a grind, because I was the only employee of the Association.

To go from that situation to this situation wasn’t that big of a deal because I knew basketball and I knew the game. Still, it was one of those things where I’d be at a college game one night and pro game the next night preparing for an NBA game.

The relationships with the players really helped when I came to the NBA. To be able to relate to Mitch Kupchak and Ernie Grunfeld and Danny Ainge and those guys I worked with at the Retired Player Association, now, I have a relationship as I’m moving up through the NBA.

How did you end up playing basketball at Brown?
SS: At the point when I was deciding what school I wanted to go to, it was between going to a situation where I could play basketball and get a scholarship or no scholarship (and play) in the Ivy League. And there was the realization that I’m not going to be an NBA player. I’ll take the education and play basketball and go from there. The only decision I had to make was: is basketball really the thing for me? Because when you’re young you just want to play; you don’t even think about coaching or anything else. But it worked out great.

Ivy League hoops are great. It’s Division I, there’s a lot of tradition, and with Princeton and Penn, you’re playing some great competition.

It’s funny, now that I’m here a lot of teams are running the Princeton offense, New Jersey, Washington, New Orleans are running it. So it brings back some bad memories. (Laughs.)

How are you adjusting to fatherhood along with the schedule this year?
SS:It makes it a lot tougher. It was tough before with just my wife and I, but it’s even tougher now with the baby. It’s tough leaving and coming back and the baby doesn’t recognize who you are. Even when I am home I’m watching tape or at the office, so it makes it hard. But those are the sacrifices you have to go through to provide for your family and I went through it.

My mom and my dad are always there for us. So you take the good with the bad and realize that my baby does have a very good future if we stay here and continue to do well.