Lenny Wilkens Rumors
Q: Who are the coaches that have influenced you most as you worked your way up the coaching ladder? Mark Price: All my coaches. I feel fortunate. I had the opportunity to play under some great coaches along the way. My dad being my first coach I was around all the time, going on to Bobby Cremins in college (at Georgia Tech) and the chance to play under him, and then moving into the NBA with Lenny Wilkens my first seven years when I got in the pros. I would probably say I learned something from all of them. Then it’s just about kind of developing my own style with my personality and taking the great things that I’ve learned from all my coaches over the years and trying to incorporate them into what I want to do.
Q: Lenny Wilkens is obviously the one who stands out from your playing career. Is there one or two coaches that you feel have had the biggest influence on you from when you were an assistant coach? MP: Obviously I had a chance to work under guys like Stan Van Gundy and Steve Clifford the last two years in Charlotte, who was a Van Gundy disciple himself. I really learned a lot. Both of those guys were extremely organized and detailed in what they did in their approach. I learned a lot getting an opportunity to work alongside those guys.
16 Apr 14
Colangelo told me it was about understanding and connecting with a vast array of personality types, getting the trust of NBA superstars who could sacrifice ego for the good of the team. First, Colangelo wanted to hear first-hand what it was like to be a player on the Olympic basketball team. It’s a unique experience, and he didn’t want to assume he had all the answers. Picking the “right” coach depended on his understanding how the players felt and what motivated them.
In what can only be described as a virtual “Who’s Who” of NBA superstar talent, in 2005 Colangelo called a special meeting of former Olympian basketball players. Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Jerry West, and Hall of Fame Coaches Dean Smith, Lenny Wilkens, and Chuck Daly, among others, gave their input. It was a superstar group therapy session. They laid bare all concerns—one of most hailed players of our time, for instance, voiced concerns about looking stupid on a global stage. At that moment, choosing the right coach became a very personal endeavor.
Lenny Wilkens is in the Hall of Fame as a player and a coach. Let that soak in for a second. Is there anything else he could’ve accomplished in basketball? Actually, yes. He was also a pioneer on the floor and the bench as one of the first African-American stars in an age when he wasn’t universally welcomed as either a player or coach. Wilkens came of age in the 1950s, played professionally in the 60s and coached in the 70s. America was changing in those decades, learning how to connect to blacks, relate to blacks, even live next door to blacks. And yes, root for blacks in sports. It was a bumpy transition for most, even Wilkens, son of a black father and Irish mother who was born and raised in Brooklyn. “I never had any problems in Brooklyn, in terms of race,” Wilkens said. “That all started when I left Brooklyn.”