Tim Sylver didn’t jump out of the gym and wasn’t gifted with superior athleticism while at Charlotte High.
As a junior during the 2006-07 season, he sat behind a loaded roster on what may have been one of the more talented groups to come through the program.
He sat on the bench and studied the game, keeping an eye on his coach, Tom Massolio, and what he was calling, how he was adjusting and more importantly what he was trying to get out of his players.
In practice, Sylver was the quiet motor behind the Tarpons’ 23-7 season. Though he didn’t see the floor, he was tasked with making starting point guard Jordan Stephenson’s life as difficult as possible in practice.
“I told him, I don’t care if you foul Jordan 1,000 times, I need you to play as hard as you can every second on the court,” Charlotte coach Tom Massolio said. “That just carried over. He was always there, always around. He was a student of the game and made everybody on that team better. That’s when you started saying to yourself, this kid down the road could be very helpful in coaching.”
His hard work behind the scenes earned him a role in the starting lineup during his senior year when they went 16-4. He returned after graduation to be an assistant coach with Charlotte before taking positions with the USF and Stetson women’s basketball programs.
After years of gleaning coaching practices and skills off his mentors, he recently was named an assistant coach with Florida International University.
It’s a journey that started with the wisdom unintentionally passed on by Massolio during Sylver’s junior year as a reserve player.
“I learned a lot from coach that year because when he would use you, you’d see ... he needs me to control this pace. He needs me to be the mind on the floor,” Sylver said. “Then coaching alongside him, he was never one to belittle you or dismiss your ideas. He wanted to know what I had to say.”
His ascent in coaching hasn’t exactly been conventional. While at USF, he was approached by Director of Basketball Operations Andy Alwood, a friend of Massolio, who wanted him to join the staff as the video coordinator.
He spent hours upon hours in a room cutting film, all the while studying the tape. That helped him build relationships with players like Courtney Williams, the highest player drafted in the WNBA from the program.
As his knowledge grew, the two of them would regularly break down her film as they both learned from each other.
“When I was a manager, we spent a lot of time in the gym together,” Sylver said of Williams. “Once I became the video coordinator, it was like the flip side of the court. We’d watch and break her game down.
“That was when I was like, I want to go develop players and help them be the best that the could be.”
He paid his dues at USF as a team manager, passing out equipment, getting food ready, doing laundry and other grunt work. It taught him how to multitask, a necessary skill of a coach.
He was then hired at Stetson as an assistant coach where he spent one year learning under coach Lynn Bria.
But when former USF assistant coach Jesyka Burks-Wiley got hired as head coach at FIU, he wasn’t about to reject an offer to join her staff. He talked to Bria at Stetson, who made a case for him to stay, but ultimately supported his choice.
“I’ve had the fortune of working in the trenches with Tim at USF,” Burks-Wiley said in a press release. “He has always impressed me with his work ethic and attention to detail. Mix that with his great basketball mind, I have no doubt Tim has bright future in this business.”
That basketball mind has been molded by those he’s worked under and is something he continuously works to better. But his most important responsibility is building relationships with current and prospective players.
As soon as he got the nod to join FIU’s staff, he got on the phone and called each of the current players to get familiar with them.
Talking to those who have worked with him, there’s an expectation that Sylver will get a chance to continue his rise in coaching, but he’s not worrying about that. For now he’s content at FIU and plans to stay a while.
“I just want to keep grinding where I’m at,” Sylver said. “I like to live in the present. I’m not really searching like I want to be a head coach by here. I want to build something special down here at FIU.
“I’ve never really been a fan of the limelight or wanted to be the reason. I just want to try and develop young women to become great in whatever field they end up in because eventually the ball’s gonna stop bouncing.”