- Associated Press - Friday, January 21, 2011

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Charles Oakley was known as an enforcer, Michael Jordan’s bodyguard and a rebounding machine in a bruising and lengthy career. He had feuds with players, entire teams and believes he’s responsible for the NBA’s strengthened flagrant foul rules.

So it’s no doubt surprising to some that a guy who’s had more than a few brushes with authority is now giving orders as an assistant coach with the Charlotte Bobcats.

Oakley just doesn’t understand the fuss.

“I guess I’m going to have to go Google myself and see why people think I shouldn’t be coaching,” Oakley said. “I’m still tough. I’m just wearing suits right now. I’m Superman.”

Welcome to the candid, unfiltered and sometimes unpolished world of Oakley, who’s spent the past month on the bench of the Jordan-owned Bobcats.

And, of course, it probably wouldn’t be a proper Oakley story if he wasn’t working for a guy he once tangled with.

“We got into it one time,” Bobcats interim coach Paul Silas said, recalling an incident at practice when he was an assistant in New York in the early 1990s. “He was shooting free throws and I said something to him. He walked up on me and I hit him.

“Then he hit me all in my chest and whatnot. I had bruises for like two weeks. Stu Jackson is coaching and comes down says, ‘Paul, are you out of your mind?’”

Now Silas, who ranks 19th on the NBA’s all-time rebounds list with 12,357, is paired with the coaching neophyte Oakley, who ranks 20th with 12,205 boards.

“He’s brought some toughness to our big men,” Silas said. “He’s into it all the time. Watching tape, really a student of the game right now. He has to get more involved in the Xs and Os, but that will come. Right now I’m very appreciative with what he’s doing.”

The 47-year-old Oakley may be an inexperienced coach, but he has a lengthy agenda, from toughening up his players to making them look better.

“When you walk out here with the Bobcats’ logo, stand for something,” Oakley said. “Not wearing your hat to the back, sagging jeans. Be a professional, that’s how I present myself to them. Nice dresser, toughness and a demeanor.”

Oakley brought all of that in a 19-year playing career which included two stints with the Bulls in which he was known for protecting Jordan with a hard foul or two. He also spent time with the Knicks, Raptors, Wizards and Rockets in a career littered with hard-nosed play.

He once was suspended for his role in a brawl involving Shaquille O’Neal and later for throwing a basketball at Tyrone Hill’s head during a long-running dispute over a gambling debt. He’s been at odds with the Knicks since they traded him to Toronto. He insists there would be no such thing as different levels of flagrant fouls if it wasn’t for him.

Now Oakley wants to bring what he believes is that missing intensity back to NBA while wearing crisp suits on Charlotte’s bench.

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