People misuse the word friend so often. But I’m blessed; I have several true friends. Last week, I noted in my column one friendship that goes back to the 6th. grade of public school, and that we’ll spend my birthday tomorrow here in Las Vegas. Another close friend, Jules Rothman, and I go back 48 years to our senior year of high school in St. Louis. He was here visiting me this week, and I just put him on a plane to return to L.A. He’s also my CPA, and I told him I want a federal tax refund of $42 million dollars for 2003. He suggested I remind him of my desired refund every year. Friendship is not necessarily based on longevity; it’s based on loyalty, and hopefully one knows who his or her true friends are.
Bud Selig says new Dodgers owner Frank McCourt has all the money necessary to make them a champion. If that’s so, then why is his purchase of the team one of the most leveraged buy-outs in sports history? The Dodgers haven’t won a playoff game since 1988. They were sub-par, on average, during Peter O’Malley’s last 10 years of ownership, and were virtually the same during Rupert Murdoch’s six-year reign. They’ve fallen further behind the pack with their obvious off-season inactivity. I don’t like what I see; I hope I’m all wrong.
Story of the Week
Basketball fans of the 60’s and 70’s will remember Lenny Wilkens as a tenacious, hot-shooting guard who averaged in double figures in 14 of his 15 NBA seasons. Prior to the NBA, Wilkens earned a scholarship to Providence College, where he shined.
The 6-1 Wilkens was small by basketball standards, but made most All-America teams as a senior in 1960. He earned MVP honors in both the NIT and the East-West College All-Star Game before being drafted in the first round of the 1960 NBA draft by the St. Louis Hawks.
During his 15-year NBA playing career, Wilkens appeared in nine All-Star Games, and was MVP in the 1971 game. He averaged 16.5 points-per-game over his NBA career. Lenny led the league in assists twice. When he retired in 1975, he ranked second on the NBA all-time assist list with a 6.7 average.
Wilkens had the ability to serve as a player and a coach simultaneously, logging those duties the last four years of his playing career. His leadership and teaching qualities were a sure sign of things to come. He would become even more famous as a coach than he had as a player in the NBA.
Lenny Wilkens holds the rare distinction of having played for the first four teams he coached; Seattle, Portland, Cleveland and Atlanta. He left his coaching assignment at Toronto at the conclusion of last season. He is now the coach of the New York Knicks, having come out of retirement on January 14th. at 66 years of age to do so.
Wilkens is the all-time leading coach in NBA history, far outdistancing all other coaches in terms of career victories, an amazing 1,292 going into this season. (Red Auerbach, do you understand that?)
When the NBA celebrated its 50th. anniversary season in 1996-97, Wilkens was named to the list of the NBA’s Top 10 Coaches in league history. He was also among the group selected as the 50 Greatest Players in NBA history. He was the only NBA member named on both lists.
Only two people are enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach. One is John Wooden; the other is Lenny Wilkens.
Last Week’s Trivia
Who holds the NFL rookie record for touchdowns? Gales Sayers scored 22 times in 1965. The regular season in those days was just 14 games.
Trivia Question of the Week
Mike Lum was a journeyman player for four major league teams from 1967 to 1981. His career batting average was .247 with just 90 homers and 431 RBI’s in 15 seasons. But he has a unique claim to fame. What is it? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.