Lenny Wilkens Rumors
Of the NBA’s top 25 winningest coaches, only three are African American: Rivers, Lenny Wilkens and Nate McMillan. “We had the opportunity and we took advantage of it,” Rivers told The Undefeated. “All three proved what we already knew, that a lot of Black men could have done the same thing that we’re doing. … But the worst disease in the NBA for a long time was a fired Black coach because that guy wouldn’t get another shot. “And so where others have gotten opportunity after opportunity after opportunity after opportunity, I still think that is very consistent in our business. I guess I’m not the norm. But compared to us, a lot of our guys get one shot and they’re out and never get another job again, where it just feels like that’s not true with everyone else. And so the fact that we’re three of 25, I take that with pride. But I have mixed emotions because I really do believe others should have the same opportunity.”
Adam Silver: I only say that because long before there was even a movement called Black Lives Matter, there was the NBA. There was Bill Russell, there was Oscar Robertson and Wayne Embry and Lenny Wilkens and all these great Black leaders within the league. Part of what I’m focusing on is finding our own voice for next season and putting us in a leadership position on these issues, and—maybe I’m naive to say this—putting us in a role to unify people as well. Now, some people might suggest that the words Black Lives Matter are causing massive amounts of people to tune out the NBA. There’s absolutely no data to support that. And in fact, as I said, there’s no doubt there are some people—and whether or not they were truly our fans to begin with is unclear—who have become further engaged with the league because they believe in our players and they believe in the positions they’ve taken, even if they don’t agree with everything they say. They respect their right to speak out on issues that are important to them.
The award recipient is selected annually by a committee comprised of some of the most respected coaches and basketball executives in the game, including Bernie Bickerstaff, Billy Cunningham, Joe Dumars, Phil Jackson, Gregg Popovich, Pat Riley, Donnie Walsh and Lenny Wilkens. The award has been given out since 2009. Tom Heinsohn was the first recipient and others to win the honor include Pat Riley, Lenny Wilkens, Jerry Sloan and Bernie Bickerstaff.
Daugherty said head coach Lenny Wilkens called for forward Larry Nance to double-team Jordan with Ehlo on that play. Nance, however, lost Jordan. “Michael faked Larry and it ended up getting Larry crossed up,” Daugherty said. “That was the problem, because Craig was a step off of Michael. That gave Michael just enough time to get that shot off, but it wasn’t supposed to happen. Larry was supposed to be there. … “I heard Craig say it was life-changing for him with people asking him all the time. And I looked at Craig and that guy was a heck of a defender. … But no one really knows that or talks about that because they’re so enamored with talking about Michael, which I understand because he was one of the greatest ever. But I don’t overlook all that.”
Steve Kerr, winner of a bazillion rings as Jordan’s teammate in Chicago, as a role player with the Spurs, and then, of course, as the Warriors coach, knew MJ long before he punched him at practice: “I think guarding him was the first time I actually met him,” Kerr said. “Craig Ehlo was injured (for the Cavs), so I started at the 2 in that game. I guarded Michael and he guarded me. Talk about the all-time mismatch physically. I was a buck-eighty. I remember I made the first shot of the game with him on me, felt really good about that, and then six minutes into the game he hadn’t scored. I was thinking, sitting there during a timeout, ‘Michael hasn’t even scored yet. I’m doing pretty well.’ I thought about it and I realized he hadn’t even taken a shot yet. He’s been passing to all his teammates. ‘Why hasn’t he shot yet?’ And then over the next four minutes he just torched me. Made like six straight shots and then Lenny Wilkens took me out. By the end of the game he had like 48, I finished with two. Just that first bucket of the game. That was my welcome to the ‘Michael Jordan World’ moment.”
As Nelson, 79, approaches Tuesday’s 10th anniversary of his passing Lenny Wilkens in regular-season wins, he says he wants his long-time friend Popovich to coach long enough to claim the record. “I hope he gets it,” Nelson said. “I hope he gets it soon.”
NBA legend Lenny Wilkens received his latest honor Saturday night — a street named after him running alongside what will eventually be a rebuilt KeyArena. The announcement was made Saturday night by Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan at a Lenny Wilkens Foundation gala auction, the final one Wilkens, 81, is helping organize. Wilkens recently announced he’ll be stepping away from the foundation after 40 years to spend more time with his family.