An unknown coming out of high school who played in the formidable shadow of John Egan at Providence College, Lenny Wilkens was a smooth ball handler who was probably the finest backcourt defender ever for the Friars. Primarily a point guard, Wilkens was the first of a long line of great players to graduate having played for Joe Mullaney. An All-East selection as a junior, he blossomed into a full court terror in his senior season, averaging 14.2 points, a whopping 7.1 rebounds and a fair number of assists and steals (records were incomplete in those years) who became a consensus All-American and MVP of the NIT and the East-West All-Star game. As great as he was at Providence College, his best basketball was ahead of him.
Wilkens was drafted sixth overall by the St. Louis Hawks in the 1960 NBA Draft. He played for the Hawks (1960-1968), Seattle SuperSonics (1968-1972), Cleveland Cavaliers (1972-1974) and Portland Trail Blazers (1974-1975).
Wilkens placed second to Wilt Chamberlain in the 1967-1968 MVP balloting. He was a nine-time NBA All-Star and was named the 1971 NBA All-Star Game MVP in 1971. He led the league in assists in the 1969-70 season, and at the time of his retirement, Wilkens ranked second on the all-time assists list, behind only Oscar Robertson.
He is also one of the all-time winningest coaches in NBA history, amassing 1,315 wins over 33 seasons. In 1979, Wilkens guided the Seattle Supersonics to the NBA title, one of six franchises he coached during his career. Named head basketball coach for the United States in 1996, Wilkens led the team to a gold medal at the Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Ga. He was the first PC player to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. He is one of the few people to be inducted into the Hall of Fame as a player and a coach.