Coming off perhaps the worst regular season in NBA history, the Charlotte Bobcats announced Monday that head coach Paul Silas would not return to coach the team during the 2012-13 NBA season.
Rod Higgins, Charlotte's president of basketball operations, announced the separation — it's not a firing, per se, as Silas' contract ran out at the end of the season — in a press release, saying that the "search for [Silas'] successor will begin immediately."
"I would like to personally thank Paul for everything he has done for this team under some pretty unique circumstances," Higgins said. "His basketball experience as a coach and a player speak for themselves. We have been fortunate to have someone of his character associated with this franchise and we hope he will continue to be a valuable resource to us in the future."
During a Monday afternoon press conference, Silas thanked the Bobcats for the opportunity and said he would not pursue another head-coaching job.
"It's time to move on and I'm OK with that," Silas said, according to the Bobcats' official Twitter feed.
Silas said he was offered an as-yet undefined consulting role with the team, though most outside observers would likely suggest that the best thing for him, now that he is without a contract, is to run away from the Charlotte Bobcats as fast as your 68-year-old legs can take you.
Higgins didn't set a timetable for a hire to be made, but did say the front office is "going to start as soon as this [press conference] is over." General manager Rich Cho said the ideal candidate for the team's head coach would be "someone [...] who wants to be here and [the] opportunity to be part of building this team up going forward."
That raises an interesting question: Who the hell wants this job?
This was an awful job when Silas took it, and that's before Charlotte got rid of its best talent and went 7-59. The tentative long-term outlook may seem a bit better now, especially if you believe in 2011 lottery picks Kemba Walker and Bismack Biyombo, if Charlotte's league-high number of ping-pong balls in the upcoming lottery results in the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft and the selection of Kentucky's Anthony Davis to man the middle, and if Cho smartly utilizes the eight figures of salary cap space at his disposal.
But still, even if you land Davis, there's no one on that roster around with whom you can confidently build a supporting cast at this stage, and as Yahoo! Sports NBA columnist Adrian Wojnarowski suggested earlier, the specter of working for Bobcats owner Michael Jordan — thought by some to be the worst owner in a league that still includes Donald Sterling — and getting nickel-and-dimed on coaching salary is unlikely to result in the job drawing interest from much top-flight talent.
The Charlotte Observer's Rick Bonnell suggested some possibilities, including former Portland Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan (whom Woj reports is unlikely to be interested), former New York Knicks head coach Mike D'Antoni and Orlando Magic assistant Patrick Ewing, but there's no agreed-upon leader for the gig at this point. Silas' son Stephen Silas — a longtime NBA assistant who assumed head-coaching duties during several games this season — will be a candidate, according to Higgins, but not the only candidate.
Silas replaced Larry Brown as the Bobcats' interim head coach in December 2010, got the team playing hard and well enough to have the "interim" tag dropped two months later, and finished the 2010-11 season with a 25-29 mark. That's nothing to sneeze at when you consider the roster he inherited, the fact that its best player (Gerald Wallace) was moved to Portland at the trade deadline, the often conscience-less shots Stephen Jackson hoisted and the absence of an organizing defensive principle to bring it all together (which Brown's playoff Bobcats had the prior year in Tyson Chandler, who left for Dallas in free agency). The Bobcats weren't world-beaters under Silas, but they competed; they were respectable enough.
This year, though? There wasn't a whole lot to respect about Charlotte's lockout-shortened 2011-12 campaign.
The 'Cats were abysmal pretty much from stem to stern, turning in a 7-59 record that amounted to wins in just 10.6 percent of their games, the lowest single-season winning percentage in NBA history. They lost to the team with the second-worst record in the NBA, the Washington Wizards, by 28 points ... twice. NBA.com's John Schuhmann said just about the only thing you could really say about them. And that was before Woj reported that the 68-year-old Silas had engaged in a physical altercation with mercurial 25-year-old forward Tyrus Thomas.
It's a shame that Silas' career in the NBA will end this way, as the man nominally responsible for arguably the worst season in the NBA's history, although the blame for the roster's construction certainly doesn't fall to him. But from an NBA fan's perspective, that's probably for the best.
It's been a decade since Silas met with sustained coaching success, stalking the sidelines in four straight postseason trips with the Charlotte/New Orleans Hornets. At age 68, coming off a tenure that doesn't necessarily cover him in glory, it seems remarkably unlikely that he'd get a crack at any job that would put him in a position to contend for a chance at a title even if he wanted one.
I think most of us would much rather be able to put a pin in Silas' professional career, get some distance from this season and just remember him fondly as that respectable, hard-as-nails NBA lifer who was one of the singular personalities that helped make the game great over the span of four decades. He's absolutely been that, and he absolutely deserves that.