Grew up the Bedford-Stuyvesant streets of Brooklyn, son of an African American father and an Irish mother. His father died when he was quite young, and the family was forced into welfare. He learned to play basketball on the playgrounds of Brooklyn and later earned a scholarship to Providence College. At Providence, Lenny matured, gained self-confidence and developed into one of the best basketball players in the country. Wilkins was a two-time All-American (1959 and 1960) at Providence and led the team to its first NIT appearance in 1959 and to the NIT finals in 1960.
Wilkins was drafted sixth overall by the St. Louis Hawks in the 1960 draft. He began his career with eight seasons with the St. Louis Hawks, losing in the finals to the Boston Celtics in his rookie season. Wilkins placed second to Wilt Chamberlain in the 1967-68 MVP balloting. He was traded to the Seattle Supersonics and spent four seasons there, earning All-Star in three of those seasons. He ended his career spending two seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers and one with the Portland Trail Blazers. Wilkins was a 13 time NBA All-Star and was named the 1971 NBA All-Star MVP in 1971. He 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.
He retired from playing in 1975 and was the full-time coach of Seattle for eight seasons. He would go on to coach Cleveland, Atlanta, Toronto and the New York Knicks.
During the 1994-95 season, Wilkens set the record for most coaching wins in NBA history, a record he held when he retired with 1,332 victories. He is the most prolific coach in NBA history, at 2,487 regular games.
Awards and honors
” Three time Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee, class of 1989 as a player; class of 1998 as a coach.
” College Basketball Hall of Fame (class of 2006)
” Providence College Hall of Fame
” 1994 NBA Coach of the Year
” 2011 Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award
” No. 19 retired by Seattle SuperSonics
Lenny and his wife, Marilyn, have three children.