1996 USA Men's Olympic Team Head Coach
Atlanta Hawks head mentor Lenny Wilkens, the National Basketball Association's (NBA) all-time winningest coach, was named on April 24, 1995, by the USA Basketball Men's Senior National Team Committee as head coach of the 1996 USA Olympic Men's Basketball Team.
"I think it's a tremendous honor to coach the United States Olympic Basketball Team," stated Wilkens. "I was very pleased to be a part of the 1992 squad, and I greatly look forward to being the head coach of the 1996 USA Olympic Basketball Team."
"Personally, I'm very pleased that Lenny was selected as our 1996 Olympic head coach. I've long admired him as a coach and as a person, particularly after the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona where he served as an assistant coach. I know he will do a terrific job," remarked USA Basketball President C.M. Newton.
"Lenny Wilkens is a class act who has been a positive influence throughout his entire career as a player and coach," said Rod Thorn, Chair of the Men's Senior National Team Committee. "As the winningest coach in NBA history, Lenny's coaching credentials are impeccable."
No stranger to USA Basketball or the Olympics, Wilkens served as an assistant under head coach Chuck Daly on the historic 1992 USA Olympic Basketball Team. The '92 Olympic squad sailed to an unblemished 8-0 record in Barcelona to capture the Olympic gold medal.
Wilkens on January 6, 1995, became the all-time winningest coach in NBA history after recording a 112-90 victory over Washington. The win gave Wilkens 939 coaching victories, surpassing the previous NBA record total of 938 set over 20 seasons by Red Auerbach.
Head coach of four different NBA teams during his 23 seasons, Wilkens has compiled an overall record (including regular season and playoff results) of 1077-916 (through 1995-96) for a .540 winning percentage.
Holding the distinction of having participated in more games (3,151 through 1995-96) as a player and/or head coach than anyone else in NBA history (when you factor in regular season, playoff and all-star games), Wilkens played in 1,150 games over his 15-year NBA playing career, and has coached in 2,001 games (including four all-star games).
With his career NBA playoff record at 64-69 (through the 1995-96 playoffs), Wilkens' 64 wins ranks him seventh on the all-time NBA coaching list, and third among active coaches. He has led his teams into the playoffs in 14 of his last 18 years as a head coach.
In addition to serving as the head coach of four NBA All-Star Games, Wilkens on May 9, 1990, was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Named head coach of the Atlanta Hawks on June 1, 1993, Wilkens in his first season directed the Hawks to a franchise-tying 57-25 record, the Central Division Championship and the best record in the Eastern Conference (tied with New York). For his sideline efforts, Wilkens was the recipient of the 1994 IBM/NBA Coach of the Year award for the first time in his outstanding career, and was also named Coach of the Year by Basketball Weekly, The Sporting News and Basketball Digest.
In 1995-96, Atlanta under Wilkens compiled a 46-36 regular season record and advanced to the NBA Eastern Conference semifinals, while in '94-95, the Hawks finished the regular season 42-40 record and advanced to the playoffs. In his three seasons in Atlanta, Wilkens' teams have compiled a 145-101 (.589) regular season record.
During his seven-year (1986-93) coaching stint in Cleveland, Wilkens guided the Cavaliers to 50 or more wins on three occasions, including a record of 54-28 (.659) in the final year (1992-93). Under Wilkens, the Cavs recorded one of the greatest resurgences in NBA history. He took a franchise that had won 29 games in 1985-86 and transformed it into a team that posted 50+ wins in three of his last five seasons, including franchise records of 57 wins in 1988-89 and 1991-92. In addition, Cleveland qualified for the playoffs in five of his last six seasons, while ascending to the 1992 Eastern Conference Finals.
He previously served as a player-coach for Seattle in 1969-72, and for the Portland Trail Blazers from 1974-76. Wilkens returned to Seattle as head coach midway through the 1977-78 season, and remained as the head coach through the 1984-85 campaign before moving to the front office as general manager. The Sonics made the playoffs in six of the last eight seasons under Wilkens. They advanced to the NBA Finals in 1978 (losing to Washington 4-3 in the finals) and won the NBA Championship in 1979, with a 4-1 series victory over the Washington Bullets.
Wilkens enjoyed a 15-year playing career in the NBA, and he ranks among the all-time leaders in assists, games played, minutes played, and free throws made, while scoring 17,772 points (16.5 ppg.). Selected as a NBA All-Star nine times, he was named Most Valuable Player of the 1971 All-Star Game in San Diego, Calif.
A first-round choice in the 1960 draft, Wilkens spent his first eight NBA seasons as a member of the St. Louis Hawks. In 1968, Wilkens was traded to Seattle (for Walt Hazzard), where he spent the next four seasons. Then in 1972, he became a member of the Cavs when he was acquired along with Barry Clemens in exchange for Butch Beard. Wilkens represented the Cavaliers in the 1973 All-Star Game, in a season when he averaged 20.5 points and 8.4 assists per game. He concluded his playing career with the Trail Blazers in the 1974-75 season as a player-coach.
A four-year basketball standout and a graduate of Providence College (R.I.), Wilkens and his wife Marilyn have three children (Leesha, Randy and Jamee), and one grandchild (Ashley) and during the season they reside in Atlanta, Georgia.