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 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 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 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.
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.
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), Toronto (2000–2003) and New York (2004–2005).
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.
Career highlights and awards
9× NBA All-Star (1963–1965, 1967–1971, 1973)
NBA All-Star Game MVP (1971)
NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-Time Team
No. 19 retired by Seattle SuperSonics
Consensus second-team All-American (1960)
NBA champion (1979)
NBA Coach of the Year (1994)
4× NBA All-Star Game head coach (1979, 1980, 1989, 1994)
Top 10 Coaches in NBA History
Gold medal winner at the Olympic Games (1996)
Points 17,772 (16.5 ppg)
Rebounds 5,030 (4.7 rpg)
Assists 7,211 (6.7 apg)
Basketball Hall of Fame as player
Basketball Hall of Fame as coach
College Basketball Hall of Fame
Inducted in 2006
Gold medal – first place 1996 Atlanta Team
Assistant Coach for United States
men’s national basketball team
Gold medal – first place 1992 Barcelona Team