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Halo 03-22-2005 12:35 PM

Cleveland cans Silas/trying to keep LeBron Happy
AP article

CLEVELAND -- Paul Silas was hired to mentor the NBA's next superstar. While he succeeded with LeBron James, his failure with the rest of the team cost him his job.

Silas was fired as coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday, his team fighting for a playoff spot after leading its division earlier this year. Longtime NBA assistant Brendan Malone was appointed interim coach.

The dismissal came with 18 games left and the team clinging to the fifth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. James seems to have been the only player who saw the move coming.

"You could kind of tell the way the air was, how things were going around here, there was going to have to be a change," said James, who scored a franchise-record 56 points Sunday. "I didn't know it was going to be this soon."

Silas told The Associated Press he was informed at a morning meeting with general manager Jim Paxson and new owner Dan Gilbert. Silas' son, assistant Stephen Silas, also was fired.

"They didn't think the team was performing as well as it should be and they wanted to make a change," Paul Silas said.

Malone will coach Tuesday night's home game against Detroit. He acknowledged he's in a tough situation, taking over a team late in the season that is expected to reach the playoffs.

"I'm still in a state of shock about what happened," Malone said after a morning practice.

Despite James and fellow All-Star Zydrunas Ilgauskas, the Cavaliers have slumped since the All-Star break. They have lost nine of 12 and nine straight road games, including Sunday's 105-98 loss to Toronto when the 20-year-old James became the youngest NBA player to score 50 or more points.

"We felt that if we didn't make this decision that we were jeopardizing our ability to be a playoff team this year," Paxson said.

Paxson criticized Silas' ability as a coach and motivator.

"We're 64 games into the season and we still don't have a consistent rotation, substitution pattern, those type of things," Paxson said. "We didn't see that changing."

Gilbert took over the team just three weeks ago and said the organization would be evaluated from top to bottom. He indicated Silas was not creating the best environment for the players.

"We felt the change today was necessary. It's going to put us in a better position to win," Gilbert said.

The Cavaliers entered the All-Star break at 30-21, then went into a slide, the decline marked by personnel issues. The trouble may have culminated Sunday when Silas benched starting guard Jeff McInnis for Eric Snow, who didn't score. McInnis did not play.

Earlier this season, Silas threw Snow off the bench after the two exchanged words in Detroit, a move that stunned the team because Snow is a leader.

Last week, Silas was fined $10,000 by the team for a derogatory comment about Utah forward Carlos Boozer, who left the team as a free agent last summer. Gilbert said that had no bearing on the firing.

The Cavaliers are the ninth team -- nearly one-third of the league -- to make a coaching change since the start of the season

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