Paul Silas, LeBron James First Head Coach Dies At 79

Former NBA player and coach, Paul Silas, was the first head coach of LeBron James’ career back in 2002.

LeBron James’ first-ever head coach, Paul Silas, unfortunately, passed away at the age of 79 earlier today (Dec. 11, 2022) for reasons yet unknown. He had a legendary 16-year playing career with two All-Star selections, three championship rings, and five All-Defensive team selections. He then had an illustrious 32-year coaching career in the league and was the Cleveland Cavaliers’ head coach from 2003 to 2005.

Although coach Paul Silas has a losing record with the Cars, LeBron James owes a lot of his success to him. He gave James the keys to the offense and the green light to try anything on the court. He gave him the confidence to be himself and developed his play making game for the limited time they had together in Ohio.

On the sad day of his passing, let’s take a look back at when coach Silas coached 19-year LeBron James on his debut.

LeBron James’ NBA debut and coach Paul Silas’ role in his early development

LeBron James was easily the most hyped high school prospect coming into the NBA and everyone in the sports world was waiting to see his debut. He has often talked about the enormous pressure he faced during his early years as analysts and pundits were already comparing him to Michael Jordan and calling him the Chosen One before he even set foot on an NBA court. Additionally, he had the burden of lifting the then-substandard Cleveland Cavaliers franchise to playoff success, and his supporting cast was nowhere near a postseason appearance.

Luckily, he had veteran head coach Paul Silas behind him.

There was no doubt that James was going to start the game even though he was 19-years-old. It was a road game against the Sacramento Kings, the reigning Western Conference runners-up at the time. He applied powder to his hands, but didn’t spray it in the air like he does now. With the world watching his debut, James certainly didn’t disappoint.

His first-ever statistic was a defensive rebound after Kings guard Doug Christie missed a jumper. James then raced up the floor to give an Hula-Hoop assist to Ricky Davis for a slam dunk. He recorded his first-ever NBA points with a sideline jumper at 16 feet in the first quarter.

Commentators discussed his weak jumper, but acknowledged that it often doesn’t matter because he can create shots from anywhere on the floor. They applauded his passing skills and called it his best part of the game.

James then cruised to a 25-point night, shooting 12-20 (60%) from the field. He came out firing on all cylinders from the get-go, posting 12 points on 6-10 shooting, 2 rebounds, 3 steals and 3 assists in the first quarter al1. He ended the game with 6 rebounds, 9 assists, and 4 steals with 2 turnovers in 43 minutes. With a near double-double, LeBron James impressed a lot of people that night, including his head coach Paul Silas, who saw brilliance in him even at a young age.

Years after they parted ways, coach Silas spoke about James to the Boston Globe in 2015 and said he knew back then that he was destined for greatness. He claimed that he gave James the confidence to play his game and told him that it was up to him to win games. He said:

Coach Silas was mesmerized by the 19-year-old’s IQ and added that he made James a point-forward because he didn’t have a point guard at the time. He continued:

LeBron James is now a lock for the Hall of Fame. Although he didn’t enjoy much success with coach Paul Silas, he thanks him for building his confidence when the franchise’s pressure was on his young shoulders.

Here at, we send our condolences to the family and friends of Paul Silas. May they be comforted during this difficult time. May he rest in peace.

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