Lenny Wilkens

Lenny Wilkens

Wilkens in 1968
Personal information
Born (1937-10-28) October 28, 1937
Brooklyn, New York
Nationality American
Listed height 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Listed weight 180 lb (82 kg)
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
Playing 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-Reference.com
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 an American retired 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 in 2010 as part of the 1992 United States Olympic "Dream Team", for which he was an assistant coach. He is also a 2006 inductee into the College Basketball Hall of Fame.

Wilkens was a combined 13-time NBA All-Star as a player (nine times) and as a head coach (four times), was the 1993 NBA Coach of the Year, won the 1979 NBA Championship as the head coach of the Seattle SuperSonics, and an Olympic gold medal as the head coach of the 1996 U.S. men's basketball team.

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 the Seattle SuperSonics for Walt Hazzard and spent four seasons there. He 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. He was named head coach in his second season with the team. 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 scored 17,772 points during the regular season, 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 was the NBA's second all-time leader in that category, behind only Oscar Robertson.

Coaching career

From 1969 to 1972 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 1977–78 season after a dismal 5-17 start. The SuperSonics won 11 of their first 12 games under Wilkens and made the playoffs in back-to-back years, losing in seven games to the Washington Bullets in the 1978 NBA Finals before returning to the 1979 NBA Finals and defeating the Washington Bullets in five games for their first and only NBA title.

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 (2004–05).

The Hall of Famer was named head coach of the New York Knicks on January 15, 2004. After the Knicks' slow start to the 2004–05 season, Wilkens resigned from the team on January 22, 2005.

Awards and honors

Later years

On November 29, 2006 he was hired as vice chairman of the Seattle SuperSonics' ownership group,[5] and was later named the Sonics' President of Basketball Operations on April 27, 2007.[6] 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.[7]


Head coaching record

Regular season G Games coached W Games won L Games lost W–L % Win-loss %
Post season PG Playoff games PW Playoff wins PL Playoff losses PW–L % Playoff win-loss %
Team Year G W L WL% Finish PG PW PL PWL% Result
Seattle 1969–70 823646.4395th in Western Missed playoffs
Seattle 1970–71 823844.4634th in Pacific Missed playoffs
Seattle 1971–72 824735.5733rd in Pacific Missed playoffs
Portland 1974–75 823844.4633rd in Pacific Missed playoffs
Portland 1975–76 823745.4515th in Pacific Missed playoffs
Seattle 1977–78 604218.7003rd in Pacific22139.591 Lost in NBA Finals
Seattle 1978–79 825230.6341st in Pacific17125.706 Won NBA Championship
Seattle 1979–80 825626.6832nd in Pacific1578.467 Lost in Conf. Finals
Seattle 1980–81 823448.4156th in Pacific Missed playoffs
Seattle 1981–82 825230.6342nd in Pacific835.375 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
Seattle 1982–83 824834.5853rd in Pacific202.000 Lost in First Round
Seattle 1983–84 824240.5123rd in Pacific523.400 Lost in First Round
Seattle 1984–85 823151.3785th in Pacific Missed playoffs
Cleveland 1986–87 823151.3784th in Central Missed playoffs
Cleveland 1987–88 824240.5124th in Central523.400 Lost in First Round
Cleveland 1988–89 825725.6952nd in Central523.400 Lost in First Round
Cleveland 1989–90 824240.5124th in Central523.400 Lost in First Round
Cleveland 1990–91 823349.4026th in Central Missed playoffs
Cleveland 1991–92 825725.6952nd in Central1798.529 Lost in Conf. Finals
Cleveland 1992–93 825428.6592nd in Central936.333 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
Atlanta 1993–94 825725.6951st in Central1156.455 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
Atlanta 1994–95 824240.5125th in Central303.000 Lost in First Round
Atlanta 1995–96 824636.5614th in Central1046.400 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
Atlanta 1996–97 825626.6832nd in Central1046.400 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
Atlanta 1997–98 825032.6104th in Central413.250 Lost in First Round
Atlanta 1998–99 503119.6202nd in Central936.333 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
Atlanta 1999–2000 822854.3417th in Central Missed playoffs
Toronto 2000–01 824735.5732nd in Central1266.500 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
Toronto 2001–02 824240.5123rd in Central523.400 Lost in First Round
Toronto 2002–03 822458.2937th in Central Missed playoffs
New York 2003–04 422319.5483rd in Atlantic404.000 Lost in First Round
New York 2004–05 391722.436(resigned)
Career 2,4871,3321,155.536 1788098.449

See also


  1. Wilkens presented Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award | NBA.com
  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. 1 2 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. Evans, Jayda (December 1, 2006). "Wilkens a Sonic again – as vice chairman". The Seattle Times.
  6. SONICS: Lenny Wilkens Confirmed as President of Basketball Operations
  7. http://lennywilkensfoundation.org/lwf_home.html
  8. "Lenny Wilkens Interview (page: 6 / 7)". Academy of Achievement. Retrieved 2013-10-04.
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