Lenny Wilkens

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Basketball player
Lenny Wilkens
Lenny Wilkens 1968.jpeg
Player information
Full name Leonard Randolph Wilkens
birthday 28th October 1937 (age 82)
place of birth Brooklyn , New York , USA
size 1.85 m
Weight 82 kg
position Point guard
High school Holy Rosary High School, New York
college Providence College , Rhode Island
NBA draft 1960, 6th pick , St. Louis Hawks
Jersey number 32, 15, 14, 19 , 17
Clubs as active
1960 - 1968 St. Louis Hawks 1968 - 1972 Seattle SuperSonics 1972 - 1974 Cleveland Cavaliers 1974-1975 Portland Trail BlazersUnited StatesUnited States
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Clubs as coaches
1969 - 1972 Seattle SuperSonics 1974 - 1976 Portland Trail Blazers 1977 - 1985 Seattle SuperSonics (1979 NBA title) 1986 - 1993 Cleveland Cavaliers 1993 - 2000 Atlanta Hawks 2000 - 2003 Toronto Raptors 2004 - 2005 New York KnicksUnited StatesUnited States
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National team as coach
1992 Summer Olympics (assistant coach) 1996 Summer OlympicsUnited StatesUnited States
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Leonard Randolph Wilkens (born October 28, 1937 in Brooklyn , New York ) is a retired American basketball player , coach and official.

Wilkens played as a player from 1960 to 1975 a total of 1,077 games in the National Basketball Association (NBA) and between 1969 and 2005 the record number of 2,487 games as a coach, including four years as a player- coach . As a coach, he won the NBA championship and two Olympic gold medals. In 1996 Wilkens was named one of the 50 best NBA players of all time and one of the 10 best coaches in NBA history to mark the 50th anniversary of the NBA .

Wilkens is the only member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame to have been inducted a total of three times. 1989 as a player, 1998 as a coach and in 2010 as a member of the Dream Team .


Lenny Wilkens was born to an African-American father and an American mother of Irish descent in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, one of four children. The father died when he was five years old. Raised Catholicism, Wilkens landed an athletic scholarship from Providence College thanks to a letter of recommendation from his priest . Wilkens made a point of justifying this scholarship and was actually voted All-American in his senior year, despite having only started basketball as a senior in mid- senior high school year. He also placed great emphasis on academia and graduated with a major in business.

His interest in professional basketball was limited at the time, even after the St. Louis Hawks selected him in the first round of the draft . Wilkens remembered the racial segregation in St. Louis that he experienced after a college game, so he was n’t too much for the Missouri team . Only a visit to a game of the Boston Celtics against those Hawks that him the Scout an Amateur Athletic Union - factory teams allowed from New York, made him realize that he is the same or even better capabilities than the operating point guards had. Since the pay of a basketball professional at that time was higher than that for business economists and accountants, Wilkens decided to try out a professional for a short time - so he thought.

Player career

As a member of the Reserve Officer Training Corps , Wilkens had to do his military service after his rookie year, which was extended by one year due to the construction of the Berlin Wall ( Berlin Crisis ). Wilkens had originally decided against service basketball. But since he could get three days of vacation in a row, he finally agreed to play for the Fort Lee site team in Petersburg , Virginia and use the resulting vacation for Hawks' games. So he managed in the 1961/62 season to complete 20 games.

After his return, Bob Pettit built him up as his successor in the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA). Since only star players should hold leadership positions in the union in order not to be intimidated, Pettit's decision testifies to Wilken's obvious potential. At the All-Star Game in Boston in 1964, NBPA President Tom Heinsohn , Wilkens, and Vice-Presidents Bill Russell and Bob Pettit called for an agreement on pension plans and health insurance, or the All-Stars would refuse to play. The all-star game was the first game of a TV contract with ABC that was valid for the following season, and so Commissioner Walter Kennedy guaranteed the submission of a pension plan by the beginning of summer. Soon after, Wilkens represented the players of the Western Division as vice president of the NBPA .

In the final year of his contract with the Hawks, Wilkens saw the Hawks sold to Tom Cousins, but no longer saw the move to Atlanta . He himself was transferred to the Seattle SuperSonics in 1968 , which were just about to start their second season. In his sophomore year he became a player-coach , the second African-American player-coach ever. This construct is no longer allowed today, as coaches do not fall under the salary cap and the salary cap could potentially be undone.

Wilkens felt underpaid as a coach when he was asked to choose one of the two positions, but young enough to continue working as a player. Since he was more than just a leader for his teammates, he had to be swapped in order not to compromise the authority of the new coach. Wilkens was exchanged against his will to an expansion team that had no chance of the playoffs , the Cleveland Cavaliers . Only Wilken's wife was informed by the Sonics about this deal by telephone. Annoyed, Wilkens initially refused to go to Cleveland, but his agent Larry Fleisher, then managing director of the NBPA, negotiated a substantial raise for him.

After two years he received offers from the Seattle SuperSonics and the Portland Trail Blazers . The owner of the Trail Blazers, Herman Saskowsky, knew that Wilkins wanted to go back to the northwest and offered him a four-year contract as a coach including a year as a player-coach. After a year, Saskowsky went to Seattle and sold the franchise to Larry Weinberg. Although Wilkens had to integrate eight young players and the prospects for the Trail Blazers' first title were high in the near future, Weinberg doubted the team's progress. Wilkens left Portland after two years and went back to Seattle and worked as a television expert for CBS . The 1977 NBA title of the Portland Trail Blazers confirmed Wilkens' predictions and earned him at least a prize.

Career as a coach

After just a year on television, Seattle SuperSonics owner Sam Schulman hired him as Human Resources Director. Wilken's TV analyzes had given him a good overview of the league's talents and he was able to secure some promising players for the head coach. But coach Bob Hopkins was luckless and Wilkens took over the team after a series of 5-17 wins. He turned things around and pushed Seattle into the NBA finals.

In 1979 the big hit finally came and the SuperSonics won their first and only championship. There was never a replacement for the new Human Resources Director post, and after the Sonics were sold to Barry Ackerley, the new management sold players to reduce staff costs. In his last year, the 1984/85 season , Wilkens worked as general manager, but felt the strong urge to coach again soon. When the Cleveland Cavaliers regrouped, Wilkens hired the team to set up the new Cavaliers in their new arena.

In 1989, Wilkens was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a player and the FIBA approved the use of professional players in the Olympic Games . Public opinion soon forced the creation of a basketball superpower, later the Dream Team . Wilkens became one of the three assistant coaches under Chuck Daly , alongside PJ Carlesimo and Mike Krzyzewski . The Dream Team won six games in an American qualifying tournament and eight games in Barcelona en route to Olympic gold . When Wilkens took over the Atlanta Hawks a year later , he'd trained every team he'd ever played for. At the end of that season, he was named Coach of the Year 1994.

1996 was to be an important year for Wilkens: in the summer he led Dream Team III to the gold medal as head coach at the Olympic Games in Atlanta , assisted by Jerry Sloan and college coaches Bobby Cremins and Clem Haskins. In the fall, Wilkens' election among the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History was announced on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the NBA. Wilkens was the only one who was also voted one of the 10 Greatest Coaches in NBA History . A choice that was to be confirmed in 1998 with a renewed induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, this time as coach. From 2000 to 2003 Wilkens coached the Toronto Raptors and from 2003 to 2005 the New York Knicks , where he should not finish the last season after a cautious start and resigned.

Late career

In the College Basketball Hall of Fame (short for: National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame ) founded in 2006, Wilkens was inducted with the founding class and in addition was appointed vice chairman of the Seattle SuperSonics in November . In July 2007 he announced his resignation.

In 2010, Wilkens received the extraordinary honor of being inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame for the third time as a member of the Dream Team . In 2011 he was the recipient of the Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award . Today he works occasionally as a college basketball television expert .

NBA career values

Wilkens played 38,064 minutes in 1,077 NBA games for over 15 years. His rate from the field was 43.2% and his free throw rate was 77.4%. On November 8, 1969 in Philadelphia, he got 21 free throws in 25 attempts. The odds against Baltimore on January 14, 1971 were even more impressive: 20 converted free throws out of 21 attempts. With 5,394 free throws converted, Wilkens is in 26th place of all free throw shooters in the NBA (as of 2017).

He scored 17,772 points (16.5 per game) and gained 5,030 rebounds (4.7 rebounds per game).

Wilkens led the season statistics of the 1969/70 season in the assists category with 683 at a rate of 9.1 assists per game. He achieved 7,211 assists in his career, 6.7 assists per game and the 14th most assists in the NBA (as of 2017).

Achievements and Awards

social commitment

As a player in Seattle, Wilkens met the Odessa Brown Children's Clinic , which provides medical treatment to low-income families. Reminiscent of his own childhood, Wilkens began getting involved in this project as a coach after his return to Seattle. Among many others, the facility is a beneficiary of the Lenny Wilkens Foundation .

See also


  • Lenny Wilkens and Terry Pluto: Unguarded. My Forty Years Surviving in the NBA . New York, 2000. ISBN 0-684-87374-5 (in English)
  • Better than the Best. Black Athletes Speak, 1920–2007 , edited by John C. Walter and Malina Iida. Seattle / London, 2010: University of Washington Press. ISBN 978-0-295-99053-8 (pages 78-97, in English)

Web links

Commons : Lenny Wilkens  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Official NBA Guide 2016–2017 , published by the NBA. New York, 2016; accessed on June 21, 2017 (in English)
  2. Lenny Wilkens – player profile on: Land of Basketball, 2017; accessed on June 21, 2017 (in English)
  3. Lenny Wilkens in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a player. Accessed June 27, 2017 (in English)
  4. Lenny Wilkens in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as coach.Retrieved June 27, 2017 (in English)
  5. Lenny Wilkens in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a member of the Dream Team. Accessed June 27, 2017 (in English)
  6. Lenny Wilkens in the College Basketball Hall of Fame.Retrieved June 21, 2017 (in English)
  7. Providence College Hall of Fame Honor Roll Retrieved June 21, 2017 (in English)
  8. Lenny Wilkens – player profile on: RealGM, 2000–2017; accessed on June 21, 2017 (in English)