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

  • By Dan Johnson
  • Posted 3/06/2001
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 3060

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).

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both HistoryLink.org and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
Major Support for HistoryLink.org Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You