Lenny Wilkens had a lot of success during his time in the NBA as a player and coach. Wilkens was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame three times. Not too many people have accomplished that.
Wilkens left a legacy on the game of basketball and impacted many players throughout his career.
Lenny Wilkens became a top point guard in the NBA
Before Wilkens started his NBA career, he was a two-time All-American at Providence College. During his time there, he led the team to their first NIT appearance in 1959, and to the NIT finals in 1960. Wilkens had his No. 14 jersey retired by Providence and was the first alumnus to receive that honor. He also was one of the inaugural inductees into the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006.
After his career at Providence, the St. Louis Hawks selected him with the sixth overall pick in the 1960 NBA draft. During his rookie season, the Hawks made it to the 1961 NBA Finals, where they lost to the Boston Celtics. He spent his first eight seasons with the Hawks. During that time, he played in five All-Star games and was one of the top point guards in the league. Wilkens finished second in MVP voting during the 1967-68 season. He averaged 20 points, 8.3 assists, and 5.3 rebounds.
Wilkens finished his career playing for the Seattle SuperSonics, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Portland Trail Blazers. He continued to play at a high level throughout his career. Wilkens finished his career averaging 16.5 points, 6.7 assists, and 4.7 rebounds per game. While he was playing in the NBA, he was also a coach for a few seasons. He was a player-coach from 1969 to 1972 with the SuperSonics and in 1974 with the Trail Blazers.
Lenny Wilkens had a lot of success in the NBA as a coach
When Wilkens became a full-time head coach, he had much success. During his second stint with the SuperSonics, he led the team to back-to-back NBA Finals appearances in 1978 and 1979. Seattle went on to win the championship in 1979. Wilkens would go on to coach the Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks, Toronto Raptors, and New York Knicks.
He finished his coaching career with a record of 1332-1155 and was named Top 10 Coaches in NBA History. Not only did he win an NBA title during his coaching career, he was named NBA Coach of the Year in 1994 and coached in the All-Star game four times. He also was on the coaching staff during the 1992 Olympics with the Dream Team.
Lenny Wilkens made a huge impact in Seattle
When Wilkens was playing in Seattle, he was introduced to the City of Hope, who had a small fundraiser that they wanted him to be involved in. He was a part of a team that helped raise funds, and part of the funds would go to the City of Hope and the Odessa Brown Clinic. Wilkens was blown away when he saw how much the clinic affected so many young lives and not too long after he started the Lenny Wilkens Foundation. He also launched an annual golf tournament and auction that attracted sports and entertainment celebrities.
The weekend event became a popular summer event in Seattle. In 2019, Wilkens announced that he would step away from his foundation and focus on spending time with his family. Throughout his 40 years doing the foundation, Wilkens helped raise millions of dollars to benefit the Odessa Brown Clinic. Wilkens spent some time as the vice-chairmen of the SuperSoncis’ ownership group and was the President of Basketball Operations for a few months in 2007. The 82-year-old lives in Washington and is enjoying time with his family.