Cavaliers name Silas coach on Monday

June 2, 2003 at 7:16 PM
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CLEVELAND, June 2 (UPI) -- Paul Silas will be LeBron James' first NBA coach.

The Cleveland Cavaliers named Silas, who was fired by the New Orleans Hornets last month, as their coach on Monday.

Former New York Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy was believed to be the front-runner for the job, but negotiations fell apart and the Cavaliers turned to Silas.

"We wanted to make sure we had the right person because this is an important time in this franchise's history," said Cavaliers Gneral Mnager Jim Paxson. "The key points in hiring Paul is his reputation for player relationships and Paul's teams always played together and got better as the season went along."

Cleveland struggled through a 17-65 season that resulted in the firing of two coaches - John Lucas was dismissed after the team started 8-34 and Keith Smart served the rest of the way as interim coach but was not retained.

However, tying for the league's worst record improved the Cavs' chances of finishing with the first pick in the lottery and they will select James, the 18-year-old high school phenom from Akron, Ohio in the June 26 draft.

"Sure the job became more appealing (with the first pick), but Iwas hoping to get the call even if we didn't have it," Silas said.

Silas' primary responsibility will be to tutor the 6-8, 240-pound James, who has already been anointed as the league's next superstar.

"I've only seen him in the McDonald's game and I liked what I saw," Silas said of James, who had 27 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in the McDonald's All-American high school basketball game in March. "He has a pro body and a tremendous feel for the game. But he's going to need nurturing and we as an organization have to provide it."

Silas, 59, is the all-time winningest coach in Hornets history, posting a 208-155 record and leading the team to the playoffs in each of his four full seasons.

In the final year of his contract, Silas guided New Orleans to a 47-35 record this past season. But the Hornets lost to the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round after advancing to the conference semifinals each of the previous two seasons.

Silas inherits a team that will be built around James, All-Star center Zydrunas Ilgauskas and guard Dajuan Wagner, the team's first-round pick in 2002.

A Hall of Famer who won NBA titles with the Boston Celtics in 1974 and 1976 and the Seattle SuperSonics in 1979, Silas also coached the San Diego Clippers from 1980-83 and has an overall mark of 286-323.

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