|Lenny Wilkens after receiving his Coach of the Year award from 1994.|
Monday, March 17, 2014
Lenny Wilkens Sets NBA Record
On March 17, 1999, Hall of Fame basketball coach Lenny Wilkens coaches game number 2,051 setting a new NBA record.
Before Wilkens was a coach he was a player in the NBA, the St. Louis Hawks drafted him in the first round sixth overall.
He played in the NBA from 1960-1975, with the Hawks, Seattle SuperSonics, Cleveland Cavaliers and Portland Trailblazers and scored 17,772 points, had 5,030 rebounds and 7,211 assists.
As a player he was a nine time All-Star, and the All-Star Game MVP in 1971. He was named to the NBA’s 50 Anniversary All-Time Team and his no. 19 jersey were retired by the SuperSonics.
Wilkens started coaching in 1969 with the SuperSonics, and coached with them until 1972 as a player coach, and in his one season as a player with Portland, he was a player-coach.
Wilkens 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 (1977–1985), winning his and Seattle's only NBA Championship in 1979.
He would go on to coach Cleveland (1986–1993), Atlanta (1993–2000), with Atlanta he won the NBA Coach of the Year in 1994, Toronto (2000–2003) and New York (2004–2005).
The Hall of Famer was named head coach of the New York Knicks on Jan. 15, 2004. After the Knicks' slow start to the 2004–2005 season, Wilkens resigned from the team on Jan. 22, 2005.
During the 1994-95 season Wilkens won career game 939, surpassing Boston Celtics legendary head coach Red Auerbach's record. He was the first coach to record 1,000 career victories and retired with a 1,332-1,155 won-loss record. He had the most wins all-time in the NBA until Golden State Warriors Coach Don Nelson surpassed the record in the 2009-2010 season.
Wilkens is in the Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach, and is only one of three players to earn that honor; the other two are John Wooden and Bill Sharman. He was inducted as a player in 1989 and a coach in 1996.
Wilkens won a Gold medal coaching the USA basketball team at the 1996 Olympics and was named one of the Top 50 Players and Top 10 Coaches in NBA History in 1996, and is the only player on both lists.