Charlotte Bobcats assistant coach Stephen Silas, son of head coach Paul Silas, has been taking a more active role on the bench of late, taking over head coaching duties from his dad for several Bobcats games. With Paul Silas, 68, reportedly "leaning toward" spending one more year on the sidelines (if the Bobcats will have him, as his contract expires at year's end), Stephen's acting-coach stints are being viewed as on-the-job training, whether for becoming his dad's successor in Charlotte or to ramp up his resume as a candidate for the next vacancy that opens elsewhere.
The arrangement appears to be above-board, and the Bobcats' front office is down with Stephen coaching about one game a week for the remainder of the season. But according to Rick Bonnell at the Charlotte Observer, the NBA wants to know which games exactly those are going to be.
Coach Paul Silas told me at shoot-around this morning that the league has asked the Bobcats for a heads-up whenever lead assistant Stephen Silas is taking over the team for a game. [...]
It makes sense that the league office wants to inform that night's officiating crew in advance that Stephen Silas is in charge. Referees give head coaches more latitude — to stand throughout the game, to argue calls, to ask for interpretations — than they do assistants. So it makes sense for refs to know how to delineate between Paul's and Stephen's roles.
I, for one, wish the league wouldn't have made this request. The prospect of two Silases standing and yelling at Bill Spooner for calling a foul on Bismack Biyombo, followed by Spooner issuing a technical foul that leads to father and son pulling a "Who's on First?" routine over who should get the T is exactly the kind of thing that might make me watch a 7-41 team that just became the first team of this NBA season officially eliminated from postseason contention. Why do you have to ruin our fun, NBA? Bits like these don't come around all that often.
Bonnell notes that this "training exercise"/apprenticeship arrangement "isn't unprecedented," citing newly minted Hall of Famer Don Nelson's occasional handing of the reins over to assistants Avery Johnson and Keith Smart, both of whom later became full-time NBA head coaches. Neither Johnson nor Smart are Nellie's sons, though, which is what makes the Bobcats' situation different and dicier — an NBA head coach deciding to take a game a week off and let his son take the wheel will very understandably look to some like naked nepotism.
Redact the last name, though, and you're looking at someone who "knows his stuff," as Kelly Dwyer wrote when discussing Stephen after the elder Silas took the Bobcats job. You've got who's been an NBA scout and assistant since 1999, serving in a variety of capacities with the Charlotte Hornets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors and Bobcats — you can doubt the quality of that pedigree if you want, but not the commitment to persevering in the face of tumult and adversity. You've got someone whom Smart, now the coach of the Sacramento Kings, called "irreplaceable" when his fellow Warriors assistant left to join the Bobcats.
You've got someone who has drawn raves for his one-on-one work with the likes of LeBron James and Monta Ellis; whose film work, game IQ and attention to detail have elicited co-signs from players as disparate in temperament as Stephen Curry and Stephen Jackson; and whose NBA bench bona fides far outstrip those of ex-players like Mark Jackson and Vinny Del Negro. (For more on the topic, you could do a lot worse than reading the great Sam Amick's September 2010 profile of the younger Silas at what used to be called FanHouse.)
Stephen Silas certainly got door-opening opportunities because of who his father was and is, but over the last 13 years, he's worked to build a resume worthy of lead-job consideration. Maybe not every assistant would get the opportunity to improve his skill set down the stretch of a lost, circling-the-drain season, but it's not as if he's a child prince handed the throne or something. He's earned a shot.
If anything, we should all be feeling for the guy; I mean, he's got to coach the Bobcats.