Coaches Hawks To Eastern Conference Semifinals
During the 1996-1997 season, Wilkens, with the help of newly signed center Dikembe Mutombo, molded the Atlanta Hawks into one of the most effective defensive machines in the NBA. He coached the Hawks to an impressive 56-26 record and another berth in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Hawks handily stood off the Detroit Pistons in the fifth game of their first round match but fell to the Chicago Bulls in the fifth game of the second round. The Bulls went on to win the NBA championship. During the season of 1997-1998, Wilkens further distinguished himself by reaching a pair of milestones in his coaching career: On February 10, 1998, the longtime coach won his 1,100th career game at Milwaukee and eight days later coached his 2,000th regular season NBA game against the New Jersey Nets. The Hawks ended the regular season with a creditable record of 50-32 but lost to the Charlotte Hornets in the fourth game of the first round of the playoffs.
The Hawks ended the lockout-shortened 1998-1999 season with their seventh consecutive winning record (31-19) and battled their way into the second round of the playoffs, where they fell to the New York Knicks in four games. After a disappointing 1999-2000 season in which the Hawks compiled its most dismal record (28-54) since moving to Atlanta, Wilkens stepped down as head coach.
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