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Lenny Wilkens returns as SuperSonics head coach on November 30, 1977.

HistoryLink.org Essay 3060 : Printer-Friendly Format

On November 30, 1977, after the Seattle SuperSonics begin the 1977-78 season with a 5-17 record, team ownership fires coach Bob Hopkins and replaces him with former Seattle player (and player-coach) Lenny Wilkens.

Wilkens had been serving as Seattle’s director of player personnel since May 1977, and had reshaped the Sonics’ roster, drafting center Jack Sikma, signing free agent guard Gus Williams, and acquiring John Johnson, Paul Silas, Marvin Webster (1952-2009), and future team general manager Wally Walker in a series of trades. Prior to his return to Seattle, Wilkens had been player-coach of the Portland Trail Blazers.

The team turned itself around under the guidance of its new coach, winning 18 of the next 21 games. By the time the regular season ended, the SuperSonics had gone 42-18 to finish with a 47-35 record and qualify for the playoffs.

After defeating Los Angeles in a best-of-three series, Seattle beat the defending NBA (National Basketball Association) champion Trail Blazers in the conference semifinals to set up a conference finals showdown vs. Denver. In the decisive sixth game of the series, at the Seattle Coliseum, the Sonics beat the Nuggets 123-108 to win the Western Conference crown and the right to face the Washington Bullets in the NBA Finals.

Despite taking a 3-2 series lead, the SuperSonics lost the last two games, including Game 7 at home, to give the Bullets the trophy.

SuperSonics website accessed March 2001 (www.supersonics.com); Seattle SuperSonics 1999-2000 Media Guide ed. by Marc Moquin (Seattle: Full House Sports & Entertainment, 1999); The Sporting News Official NBA Register, 1998-99 edition, ed. by Mark Bonavita, Mark Broussard, and Brendan Roberts (St. Louis: The Sporting News, 1998); The Sporting News Official NBA Guide, 1998-99 edition, ed. by Mark Broussard and Craig Carter (St. Louis: The Sporting News, 1998).

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Lenny Wilkens as coach of the Seattle SuperSonics
Courtesy Seattle SuperSonics

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