CLEVELAND, March 21 -- 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 Monday as coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, 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 said he was informed at a morning meeting with General Manager Jim Paxson and new owner Dan Gilbert. Silas's 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 at home against Detroit. He said 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.