Blue Jays come to Charlotte for NCAA tourney four months after Paul Silas inducted into Hall of Fame
CHARLOTTE - As one of the eight teams that comes to Charlotte this weekend for NCAA tournament opening round games, Creighton came claim a rich recent history of postseason success and NBA sharpshooters like Kyle Korver, Anthony Tolliver and Doug McDermott.
But well before McDermott became the school's fourth three-time All-American, current Charlotte icon (and Denver, N.C. resident) Paul Silas helped lay a foundation for Blue Jays.
Not only was Silas the school's first three-time All-American (1962, 1963 and 1964) but he helped Creighton to Sweet 16 appearances in 1962 and 1964.
Silas, who would become a 16-year NBA player, two-time NBA All-Star and three-time NBA champion, was among last November's eight-person induction class into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.
"It was something else," Silas said. "It was like 50-something years since I had played in college. But it felt good to be remembered."
His alma mater, Creighton, was even a part of the four-team Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City.
Silas' induction class included Wake Forest's Tim Duncan, Winston-Salem State's Cleo Hill, Indiana's Scott May, Purdue's Rick Mount, Gonzaga's John Stockton, Duke's Jay Williams and longtime Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan.
"A whole lot of guys were in there and it was a great time," said Silas, who is joined by Rick Apke (1976, 1977 and 1978), Benoit Benjamin (1983, 1984 and 1985) and McDermott (2012, 2013 and 2014) as three-time Blue Jays' All-Americans. "Creighton was there and they played great. They've obviously had a great year."
At Creighton, Silas was a ferocious scorer and rebounder and helped the Blue Jays to 20-win seasons in 1962 (21-5) and 1964 (22-7) while leading the nation in rebounding twice. And Silas' 1,701 career rebounding total remains seventh all-time in college basketball history.
A second-round pick of the St. Louis (now Atlanta) Hawks, Silas would rack up 10,000 career points and 10,000 career rebounds in a 16-year career with five teams. It was highlighted by 1972 (Phoenix) and 1975 (Boston) All-Star appearances and league titles with Boston in 1974, 1976 and Seattle (now Oklahoma City) in 1979.
After retiring as a player in 1980, Silas would begin a coaching career with seven organizations that would last from 1980 to 2012, including two stints as Charlotte's NBA head coach.
During his second tenure that began in December 2010, Silas left recreation basketball coaching at the East Lincoln Optimist Club for the head coaching job with Michael Jordan's Hornets.
Even after retiring for good from coaching in 2012, Silas has remained a special advisor for the Hornets - and been able to watch from a front row seat behind the team's bench as his son Stephen Silas is associate head coach for current Charlotte head coach Steve Clifford.
"It's been a lot of fun watching my son coach," said Silas, who has lived in Denver since 2006.
Richard Walker: 704-869-1841; twitter.com/jrwalk22