Signs On As Head Coach Of Cavaliers
In June of 1986 Wilkens signed on as head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, a team that had won only twenty-nine games during the 1985-1986 season. Wilkens engineered an almost miraculous turnaround for the Cavaliers, compiling a record of 316-273, for a winning percentage of 53.7, during his seven seasons with the team. In 1993, Wilkens, then in his late 50s, decided to retire from basketball. However, not long thereafter he received an offer from the Atlanta Hawks that was just too attractive to refuse. The Hawks signed Wilkens to a five-year contract, worth $6.5 million. As he had done before, he quickly turned things around in Atlanta, coaching the Hawks to a 1994-1995 record of 57-25 and the Central Division championship. At season's end, Wilkens was named NBA Coach of the Year.
Wilkens became the winningest coach in NBA history on January 6, 1995, when a Hawks 112-90 victory over the New Jersey Nets gave him his 939th win, topping the marks set by such legendary NBA coaches as Arnold 'Red' Auerbach, Dick Motta, and Jack Ramsay. Wilkens told New York's Amsterdam News that he dedicated his landmark win to Auerbach, the man he replaced as number one. "It was a testament to him. I still look upon him as do most of the other coaches in this league as 'The Coach.'"
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