Michael Barnwell Silliman

Michael Barnwell Silliman

Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky, USA
Death 16 Jun 2000 (aged 56)
Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky, USA
Burial Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky, USA
Plot Section 3, Lot 123
Memorial ID 40366465 · View Source
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Michael B. Silliman, a former St. Xavier High School basketball star who later led the 1968 U.S. basketball team to an Olympic gold medal, died yesterday at Baptist Hospital East of an apparent heart attack. Silliman, 56, is considered by many to be one of the finest players in Kentucky high school basketball history. He led St. X to the 1962 state title, then became an All-American at Army and captained the 1968 Olympic team. "Coach (Bob) Knight says to this day that Mike Silliman is the best player he has ever coached," said Lexington Herald-Leader columnist Billy Reed, who remembered covering Silliman in his early years at St. X. "I've heard (Knight) say that many, many times." Silliman also was prominent after his basketball career. He became a mortgage banker and developer who worked with companies that constructed several buildings in the Louisville area. He owned the old Silliman Development Co. and was developer of the Hunnington Place Office Building and Shopping Center and the downtown One Corporate Plaza office building, now known as the Louisville Gas & Electric Plaza. He was vice president of Faulkner Hinton & Associates and former manager of corporate real estate development for HFH Commercial Real Estate Services.While Silliman was at St. X, he became one of just five players ever named top vote getter in consecutive years for The Courier-Journal's all-state team. He averaged 24.1 points a game as a senior in high school, was named Kentucky's Mr. Basketball in 1962 and was the city's top scorer. He also averaged 20 rebounds a game as a senior and finished his high school career with 1,972 points. A first-team member of The Courier Journal's all-state team three years in a row, Silliman scored 23 points in a 62-58 win over Ashland in the state championship game as a senior. He didn't play in the Kentucky-Indiana All-Star series because he had to be at West Point. "I never saw a better player," Joe Reibel, who coached Silliman his senior year at St. X, told the newspaper several times over the years. The 6-foot-6 Silliman had 55 full college scholarship offers and was heavily recruited by the University of Kentucky. He would have been the center on the team that turned out to be called "Rupp's Runts." Coach Adolph Rupp called him a "terrific prospect," but Silliman instead went to Army, where he had a banner career. He led the West Point freshman team to a 17-0 season and finished his three-year stint on the varsity team with 1,342 points. He left the school as its all-time leading scorer and still ranks seventh on that list. In his only college game in Louisville, Silliman scored 30 points in the 84-56 loss to the University of Louisville. Silliman was a member of coach Knight's first team at Army during his senior season, when he averaged 22.2 points and 10.7 rebounds. He was captain and a starter on the Olympic team that won the 1968 gold medal. Silliman had six points in the 65-50 win over Yugoslavia in the championship game in Mexico City. He played one year as a professional – 36 games in 1970-71 for the Buffalo Braves of the National Basketball Association. Basketball wasn't Silliman's only sport. He also played baseball for Army and played high school baseball and golf. Silliman was inducted into the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame in 1988 and into the Kentucky High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame in 1990. "He was hard working, unselfish, but very talented," Reed said. "If you made a list of the top 15 players in Kentucky high school basketball, Mike would be there." Silliman's survivors include a son, Michael Scott Silliman; a daughter, Marian Elizabeth Silliman; two brothers, Gregory R. and Daniel C. Silliman and two sisters, Susan S. McDaniel and Janet S. Cundiff. The funeral will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Holy Spirit Catholic Church, 3345 Lexington Road, with burial in Calvary Cemetery. Visitation will be at Highlands Funeral Home, 3331 Taylorsville Road, from 3 to 7 p.m. tomorrow and 5 to 8 p.m. Monday. Memorial gifts can be sent to St. Xavier High School.

From West Point's Memorial webpage:

Michael Barnwell Silliman was a basketball coach's dream. High School all-state champion at St. Xavier High School. All-time leading scorer at West Point. Olympic Gold Medalist. NBA professional. Mike Silliman, however, was a very humble man, whose spirit and zest for life were infectious. Everyone loved to be around Mike.

A Louisville, KY, sports writer once noted Mike was not particularly fast or a great jumper, but he could dribble, shoot and rebound with ease. In fact, legendary coach Bobby Knight, who coached Mike at Army for a year, said Mike was special—the best player he had ever coached.

As a boy in Louisville, Mike filled lazy summer days with games such as baseball and basketball. He matured early and grew to be over six feet tall by the eighth grade. Although Mike could dominate anybody his age, he remained considerate and courteous to everyone.

At St. Xavier High, Mike was an honor student, president of his senior class, and lettered in baseball, golf, and basketball, leading the Tigers basketball team to the school title in 1962. He was one of only five players named the top vote-getter in three consecutive years by the Louisville Courier-Journal all-state team. He averaged 24 points a game his senior year, was the city's top scorer, and was named Kentucky's "Mr. Basketball" in 1962. St. Xavier Coach Joe Reibel said Mike was an easy-going, but strong, dominating-type of player, and at six feet six inches, capable of getting the team two points-and the ball-when it was needed. He was also exceptionally graceful on his feet, and earned the nickname "The Gentle Giant." Mike must have seemed to his teammates much like Babe Ruth appeared to baseball players of his era.

Mike received 55 scholarship offers and was heavily recruited by the University of Kentucky. He chose West Point, however, where he had a banner career. He led the Plebe team to a perfect 17-0 season, including wins over strong St. John's University and New York University teams. In 1965, despite a recent appendectomy, Mike scored 30 points and had 18 rebounds against Louisville. Legendary Louisville center Wesley Unseld said Mike was the best player he had ever seen. As a First Class cadet Mike played for Coach Knight, averaging 22.2 points and 10.7 rebounds per game and finishing his career as a three-time All-American.

At West Point, Mike also lettered three years in baseball, playing first base, and he played on the cadet golf team. A Dean's List student, he was also an academic All-American. Mike was a well-known prankster, too, whose shenanigans put him "on the area" more than once. He graduated with honors with a degree in mathematics and engineering, and the rank of cadet captain.

Mike is widely remembered as warm and caring. Phil Nelson '46 recalls being stationed in Ft. Knox, KY, with Mike: "My parents had driven from Wisconsin to pick me up, but Mike insisted they first stop in Louisville and meet his family, especially his grandmother Ella Barnwell... Thirty years later when Mike invited me to golf in Pinehurst, NC, he gave me the biggest hug and the broadest smile, and I knew it came from the bottom of his heart." Tom Beasley '66 recalls his wife's trepidation in anticipating Mike's visits to Nashville, when Tom and Mike would transform into "wild animal" college fraternity boys. "Mike was always so much fun," she remembers, "and his heart was a mile wide."

In Tokyo in 1967, Mike captained the Gold Medal-winning USA Men's 6th World University Games Basketball Team, which won its games by an average of 60 points. In 1968 at the Mexico City Olympics, he captained the USA Men's Basketball Team that defeated Yugoslavia to win the gold medal. Subsequently, Mike was stationed in South Korea prior to his resigning from the Army in 1970. That year Mike played for the USA Men's World Championship Team, recording a team-high 119 points in nine games. He was drafted by the Buffalo Braves of the National Basketball Association; however, an injury shortened Mike's pro career and he retired after one year. Mike Silliman was inducted into the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame, the Kentucky High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame and St. Xavier's Hall of Fame.

Mike was a successful mortgage banker and real estate developer in Louisville and delighted in welcoming classmates and friends to town. There, after running his own business, he joined HFH Commercial Real Estate Services and later became a vice president for Faulkner Hinton & Associates. The LG&E Building in Louisville was one of Mike's projects. A symbol of Louisville's redevelopment, the buildings striking blue glass, granite structure, and green-lit roof stand out against the skyline. Today, the buildings green lights still remind his brother Dan of Mike.

Throughout life, Mike enjoyed reading. The works of Plato and Aristotle were among his favorites. From Max Ehrmann's Desiderata Mike took his mantra, and he encouraged his son and daughter to read the treatise for inspiration. At West Point, Mike was often seen reading novels when classmates were sweating out homework. His library contained many Civil War books, which he annotated in the margins with his thoughts on the great battles. He took opportunities to tour the battlefields such as the time he stopped at Appomattox, Vicksburg, and other battle sites on his way to visit his daughter Marian in Boston. Mike's son Scott remembers his father as "the type of man you learned from, even though he wasn't teaching."

Mike was a regular at Bobby Knight's annual golf outing in Bloomington, IN, for the coach's former West Point players. He always played from the "blue tees down," and his low scores were the envy of Coach Knight. Sadly, just a week before the 2000 event, Mike suddenly died of a heart attack.

Eulogizing her father, Marian said she felt his presence: "I feel it in my heart and know that he is there, and I am grateful that he has not fully left me or my brother and all of those whose lives he has affected." Long-time friend George Parker reflected on Mikes life: "He was the one to ride the river with." We all miss riding the river with Mike, and thank God for the gift of his life.

Mike Silliman was a scholar and an athlete, a good husband and proud father, and a supportive friend and classmate. He is survived by his former wife Margaret; son Scott and daughter Marian; brothers Daniel and Gregory and sisters Susan and Janet. Mike's parents, Clarence August and Elizabeth Barnwell Silliman, predeceased him.

West Point AOG Memorial Page: http://apps.westpointaog.org/Memorials/Article/26285/

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  • Maintained by: Michael Silliman
  • Originally Created by: Francie Ede
  • Added: 6 Aug 2009
  • Find a Grave Memorial 40366465
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Michael Barnwell Silliman (5 May 1944–16 Jun 2000), Find a Grave Memorial no. 40366465, citing Calvary Cemetery, Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky, USA ; Maintained by Michael Silliman (contributor 49386622) .