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Archive for Sunday, March 30, 2003

Wilkens one loss from tying record

March 30, 2003

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— Lenny Wilkens has more wins than any coach in NBA history. Soon, he might have more losses, too.

Wilkens is one loss away from tying the record of 1,106 losses set by Bill Fitch, a mark the Toronto coach could reach at home today against the New York Knicks.

"It doesn't bother me at all," Wilkens said. "With success comes failure, too. I think that I've accomplished more good things than others."

Wilkens, in his 30th year as an NBA coach, has 1,290 career wins, but his lottery-bound team is just 22-49.

Wilkens is expected to be fired after the season, and the 65-year-old coach could have just 11 games remaining in his Hall of Fame career.

"I have a contract for next year," Wilkens said. "We'll see. I'm not going to worry about anything. Every game I go out there and coach and try to win and that's the way it's going to be until the end of the season. Then we'll see what happens."

Wilkens said injuries have been the team's biggest problem this season, but the Raptors are 12-15 since perennial All-Star Vince Carter returned to the lineup after missing 23 games because of a strained right knee.

Carter also missed 10 games with a left knee injury, and other injuries sidelined Antonio Davis, Lamond Murray, Lindsey Hunter and Eric Montross this season.

"It's worn on all of us," Wilkens said. "I'm a competitor. I want to win and we just haven't had the bodies like we would have liked to. That's made for a difficult year."

Toronto newspapers have been publishing a countdown to Fitch's record since January.

Wilkens became Toronto's coach on June 21, 2000. He led the Raptors to a franchise-best 47 regular-season wins in his first year. Last season, the Raptors won 12 of their final 14 games -- without Carter -- to qualify for the playoffs. They lost to the Pistons in the first round.

Before coming to Toronto, Wilkens coached in Atlanta, Cleveland, Seattle and Portland. He won his lone NBA championship with the Sonics in 1979.

Wilkens, a nine-time NBA All-Star, and John Wooden are the only ones elected to the Hall of Fame as both a player and coach. In 1997, Wilkens was honored as one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history and one of the 10 greatest coaches, the only one on both lists.

He gained his 939th victory in early 1995, passing former Boston Celtics coach Red Auerbach for the most wins ever by an NBA coach.

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