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Lenny Wilkens

Lenny Wilkens
File:Lenny Wilkens 1968.jpeg
Wilkens in 1968
Personal information
Born (1937-10-28) October 28, 1937 (age 82)
Brooklyn, New York
Nationality American
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Career information
High school Boys (Brooklyn, New York)
College Providence (1957–1960)
NBA draft 1960 / Round: 1 / Pick: 6th overall
Selected by the St. Louis Hawks
Pro career 1960–1975
Position Point guard
Number 32, 15, 14, 19, 17
Coaching career 1969–2005
Career history
As player:
19601968 St. Louis Hawks
19681972 Seattle SuperSonics
19721974 Cleveland Cavaliers
1974–1975 Portland Trail Blazers
As coach:
1969–1972 Seattle SuperSonics
1974–1976 Portland Trail Blazers
19771985 Seattle SuperSonics
19861993 Cleveland Cavaliers
19932000 Atlanta Hawks
20002003 Toronto Raptors
20042005 New York Knicks
Career highlights and awards

As player:

As coach:

Career statistics
Points 17,772 (16.5 ppg)
Rebounds 5,030 (4.7 rpg)
Assists 7,211 (6.7 apg)
Stats at
Basketball Hall of Fame as player
Basketball Hall of Fame as coach
College Basketball Hall of Fame
Inducted in 2006

Leonard Randolph "Lenny" Wilkens (born October 28, 1937) is a retired American basketball player and coach in the National Basketball Association (NBA). He has been inducted three times into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, first in 1989 as a player, as a coach in 1998, and as part of the 1992 United States Olympic "Dream Team", for which he was an assistant coach. From the 1994–95 season until the 2009–10 season, Wilkens was the winningest coach in NBA history and retired still holding the record at 1,332 victories. Wilkens is now second on the list behind Don Nelson. He won the Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award for the 2010-11 NBA season.[1]

Early life

Wilkens grew up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn.[2] His father was African American and his mother was Irish American.[3] Wilkens was raised in the Roman Catholic faith.[3]

At Boys High School, Wilkens was a basketball teammate of longtime Major League Baseball star Tommy Davis.

Playing career

Wilkens was a two-time All-American (1959 and 1960) at Providence College. He led the team to their first NIT appearance in 1959, and to the NIT finals in 1960. When he graduated, Wilkens was, with 1,193 points, the second-ranked scorer in Friar history (he has since dropped to twentieth as of 2005). In 1996, Wilkens' No. 14 jersey was retired by the college, the first alumnus to receive such an honor. In honor of his collegiate accomplishments, Wilkens was one of the inaugural inductees into the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006.

Wilkens was drafted sixth overall by the St. Louis Hawks in the 1960 NBA Draft. He began his career with eight seasons with the St. Louis Hawks, who lost the finals to the Boston Celtics in his rookie season. The Hawks made the playoffs consistently with Wilkens but never again reached the finals. Wilkens placed second to Wilt Chamberlain in the 1967–1968 MVP balloting, his last with the Hawks.

Wilkens was traded to Seattle for Walt Hazzard and spent four seasons there. Wilkens averaged 22.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 8.2 assists per game in his first season for the SuperSonics, and was an All-Star in three of his seasons for them. Wilkens was named head coach prior to his second season for the SuperSonics. Although the SuperSonics did not reach the playoffs while Wilkens simultaneously coached and started at point guard, their record improved each season and they won 47 games during the 1971–72 NBA season. Wilkens was dealt to the Cleveland Cavaliers before the start of the next season in a highly unpopular trade, and the SuperSonics fell to 26-56 without his leadership on the court.[4]

Wilkens ended his career spending two seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers (19721974) and one with the Portland Trail Blazers (1974–1975).

Wilkens was a nine-time NBA All-Star, and was named the 1971 NBA All-Star Game MVP in 1971. With Seattle, he led the league in assists in the 1969–70 season, and at the time of his retirement, Wilkens was the NBA's second all-time leading playmaker (assists), behind only Oscar Robertson. He scored 17,772 points during the regular season.

Coaching career

From 19691972 with Seattle, and in his one season as a player with Portland, he was a player-coach. He retired from playing in 1975 and was the full-time coach of the Trail Blazers for one more season. After a season off from coaching, he again became coach of the SuperSonics when he replaced Bob Hopkins who was fired 22 games into the 1977–1978 season after a dismal 5-17 start. The SuperSonics won 11 of their first 12 games under Wilkens, made the playoffs, and ultimately reached the 1978 NBA Finals before losing in seven games to the Washington Bullets.

He coached in Seattle for eight seasons (19771985), winning his (and Seattle's) only NBA Championship in 1979. He would go on to coach Cleveland (19861993), Atlanta (19932000), Toronto (20002003) and New York (20042005).

The Hall of Famer was named head coach of the New York Knicks on January 15, 2004. After the Knicks' slow start to the 2004–2005 season, Wilkens resigned from the team on January 22, 2005.


  • During the 1994-95 season Wilkens won his 939th career game, surpassing Red Auerbach's record.[5] He was the first coach to record 1,000 career victories and retired with a 1,332-1,155 won-loss record. As noted above, his record was surpassed by Don Nelson in 2009-10.
  • He coached the Olympic Champion Men's Basketball team in 1996 and was an assistant coach on the 1992 United States men's Olympic basketball team ("The Dream Team").
  • Wilkens is one of four players to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach (the other three being John Wooden, Tom Heinsohn and Bill Sharman), joining the Hall in 1989 as a player and 1998 as a coach. He was inducted for a third time in 2010 as a member of the 1992 "Dream Team" (assistant coach).
  • In 1996, the NBA named Wilkens one of its 50 Greatest Players and 10 Greatest Coaches; Wilkens is the only person named to both lists. He is also a member of the Providence College Athletic Hall of Fame.
  • In 1994 Coach Wilkens was presented the United States Sports Academy's Amos Alonzo Stagg Coaching Award for his outstanding achievements as a coach.

Later years

On November 29, 2006 he was hired as vice chairman of the Seattle SuperSonics' ownership group,[6] and was later named the Sonics' President of Basketball Operations on April 27, 2007.[7] On July 6, 2007 Wilkens resigned from the Sonics organization. Wilkens currently is seen on Northwest FSN Studio as a College Hoops analyst and occasionally appears on College Hoops Northwest at game nights. He is the founder of the Lenny Wilkens Foundation for Children.[8]


  • "I learned my basketball on the playgrounds of Brooklyn. Today, being a playground player is an insult. It means all you want to do is go one-on-one, it means your fundamentals stink and you don't understand the game. But the playgrounds I knew were tremendous training grounds."
  • "Show people how to have success and then you can push their expectations up."[9]

Head coaching record

Team Year Regular Season Post Season
Won Lost Win % Finish Won Lost Win % Result
SEA 1969–70 36 46 .439 5th in Western Division
SEA 1970–71 38 44 .463 4th in Pacific Division
SEA 1971–72 47 35 .573 3rd in Pacific Division
POR 1974–75 38 44 .463 3rd in Pacific Division
POR 1975–76 37 45 .451 5th in Pacific Division
SEA 1977–78 42 18 .700 3rd in Pacific Division 13 9 .591 NBA Finals
SEA 1978–79 52 30 .634 1st in Pacific Division 12 5 .706 NBA Championship
SEA 1979–80 56 26 .683 2nd in Pacific Division 7 8 .467 Conf. Finals
SEA 1980–81 34 48 .415 6th in Pacific Division
SEA 1981–82 52 30 .634 2nd in Pacific Division 3 5 .375 Conf. Semifinals
SEA 1982–83 48 34 .585 3rd in Pacific Division 0 2 .000 1st round
SEA 1983–84 42 40 .512 3rd in Pacific Division 2 3 .400 1st round
SEA 1984–85 31 51 .378 5th in Pacific Division
CLE 1986–87 31 51 .378 4th in Central Division
CLE 1987–88 42 40 .512 4th in Central Division 2 3 .400 1st round
CLE 1988–89 57 25 .695 2nd in Central Division 2 3 .400 1st round
CLE 1989–90 42 40 .512 4th in Central Division 2 3 .400 1st round
CLE 1990–91 33 49 .402 6th in Central Division
CLE 1991–92 57 25 .695 2nd in Central Division 9 8 .529 Conf. Finals
CLE 1992–93 54 28 .659 2nd in Central Division 3 6 .333 Conf. Semifinals
ATL 1993–94 57 25 .695 1st in Central Division 5 6 .455 Conf. Semifinals
ATL 1994–95 42 40 .512 5th in Central Division 0 3 .000 1st round
ATL 1995–96 46 36 .561 4th in Central Division 4 6 .400 Conf. Semifinals
ATL 1996–97 56 26 .683 2nd in Central Division 4 6 .400 Conf. Semifinals
ATL 1997–98 50 32 .610 4th in Central Division 1 3 .250 1st round
ATL 1998–99 31 19 .620 2nd in Central Division 3 6 .333 Conf. Semifinals
ATL 1999–00 28 54 .341 7th in Central Division
TOR 2000–01 47 35 .573 2nd in Central Division 6 6 .500 Conf. Semifinals
TOR 2001–02 42 40 .512 3rd in Central Division 2 3 .400 1st round
TOR 2002–03 24 58 .293 7th in Central Division
NYK 2003–04 23 19 .548 3rd in Atlantic Division 0 4 .000 1st round
NYK 2004–05 17 22 .436 5th in Atlantic Division
32 seasons 1332 1155 .536 - 80 98 .449 -

Source: Lenny Wilkens Coaching Record –

See also


  1. ^ Wilkens presented Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award |
  2. ^ Beck, Howard. "PRO BASKETBALL; Wilkens Denies He Was Asked to Go", The New York Times, September 28, 2005. Accessed November 20, 2007. "A native of Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, Wilkens had added motivation to succeed in New York, which made leaving so quickly that much tougher."
  3. ^ a b Smith, Gary (December 5, 1994). "He Has Overcome". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved July 31, 2008. 
  4. ^ Gastineau, Mark; Thiel, Art; Rudman, Steve (2009). The Great Book of Seattle Sports Lists. United States: Running Press. pp. 261–262. ISBN 9780762435227. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ Evans, Jayda (December 1, 2006). "Wilkens a Sonic again – as vice chairman". The Seattle Times. 
  7. ^ SONICS: Lenny Wilkens Confirmed as President of Basketball Operations
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Lenny Wilkens Interview (page: 6 / 7)". Academy of Achievement. Retrieved 2013-10-04. 

External links