25 Şubat 2008 Pazartesi

Lenny Wilkens

Lenny Wilkens was born in Brooklyn, New York. He grew up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section, one of the toughest neighborhoods of the city. Although Wilkens' father died when Lenny was only five, his mother, a deeply religious woman, made sure that young Lenny resisted the temptations of the streets. He excelled in school while holding down a succession of after-school jobs as soon as he was old enough to work. A sympathetic priest encouraged the boy's athletic interests and helped him win a basketball scholarship to Providence College. In Wilkens' first year at providence, the freshman squad had a record 23-0 season. Wilkens was a first-team selection to two All-America teams, and in his senior year he was named the tourney's Most Valuable Player. He was named outstanding player in the New England area, and graduated in 1960 with a degree in economics.

Wilkens enjoyed a 15-year playing career in the NBA, playing for the St. Louis Hawks, the Seattle SuperSonics, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Portland Trail Blazers. He ranks among the all-time leaders in assists, free throws and games played, and was named Most Valuable Player in the 1971 All-Star Games.

Wilkens has since served the Seattle SuperSonics as both Head Coach and General Manager, leading them to an NBA Championship in 1979. He coached the Cleveland Cavaliers for seven years, and was Head Coach of the Atlanta Hawks from 1993 to 2000. In three of those seasons, Wilkens led the Hawks to 50 victories, including two consecutive 50-win seasons. He has led his teams into the playoffs in 16 out of 20 seasons.

In 1995 Wilkens broke the NBA record for most regular-season victories by a coach, and has since become the first coach in NBA history to break the 1,000-victory threshold. After the 1997-98 season he was named to the NBA's list of the 50 Greatest Players -- and Top 10 Coaches -- in the league's history. He was the only person to make both lists. Including playoff and All-Star games, he has participated in more games as player and coach than anyone else in league history. A former vice president of the NBA Players Association, Lenny Wilkens has also served as president of the NBA Coaches Association. In January 2004, he returned to his native New York to coach the New York Knicks.

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