This throwback Thursday goes back to 1977. Lenny Wilkens had been a 9-time all-star player, then was a player-coach (yes, both) with the Sonics and Blazers. Wilkens stayed on one more year with the Blazers as their coach. The following year he became the Sonics director of player personnel. Lenny Wilkens took over Sonics coaching duties early in the 1977-78 season.
On November 30, 1977, Lenny Wilkens took over the coaching duties of a 5-17 team. Lenny Wilkens' Sonics ran off six straight wins to start his tenure, the first four on the road. The Sonics lost one game, and then won five more in a row.
For me, this was a very exciting and hopeful week as a Seattle Sonics fan. I hoped he could get them into the playoffs. Wilkins went 42-18 to finish out the Sonics regular season, with the team finishing 47-35.
In the playoffs, Lenny's Sonics were red hot; beating the Lakers in the first round 2-1, beating the Blazers in the second round 4-2, beating the Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals 4-2, then losing to the Bullets in the NBA Finals 3-4.
Wilkens returned to Seattle in May, 1977 as director of player personnel. But 22 games into the 1977-78 season, with the Sonics at 5-17 under Bob Hopkins, Wilkens moved into the head coaching role. He then engineered a remarkable turnaround, guiding the team to the NBA Finals that season and then to an NBA championship the following year by defeating a favored Washington Bullets team led by Elvin Hayes and Wes Unseld. Using a team-oriented philosophy, Wilkens crafted a championship club out of a competent but unspectacular unit that included Gus Williams, Dennis Johnson, Jack Sikma, Fred Brown, John Johnson and Lonnie Shelton.
"I still remember when I took over that team," he recalled in 1994. "I had heard general managers and other people say it was the worst team ever. And when I turned them around, all of a sudden everyone said, 'Well, we all knew they had the talent.'" (NBA.com)
Found these in a box of my stuff in my folks' basement #sonics @Sonicsgate pic.twitter.com/aEbHpKwnqN— Erv Kuebler (@swervinerv82) November 29, 2014