Hall of Famer Wilkens leaves Sonics
SEATTLE -- Hall of Fame coach Lenny Wilkens resigned Friday as the vice chairman of the Seattle SuperSonics, completing a rapid decline of his role in the organization.
"My passion for this city and this franchise has never wavered, but I feel that my position within the organization did not develop the way that I thought it would," Wilkens said in a statement.
Wilkens became the Sonics' vice chairman last November, taking on the role of adviser on basketball operations to owner Clay Bennett and also working in community relations.
His role temporarily expanded in late April when the team reassigned general manager Rick Sund and fired coach Bob Hill. Wilkens was put in charge of the search to fill both positions, and was promoted to president of basketball operations.
That promotion wasn't without confusion. Wilkens announced his new job on a Seattle sports radio station; the team briefly denied that Wilkens had been promoted before confirming the move.
When the Sonics hired Sam Presti as their general manager on June 7, Bennett announced that Presti held authority on all basketball-related decisions, and Wilkens would resume his role as vice chairman.
Wilkens has not been seen at any Sonics-related events since Presti was hired.
Wilkens' "insight into basketball and the Sonics' legacy in Seattle helped us greatly as we retooled our basketball operation," Bennett said in a statement. "He has been an important resource and connection to the community as we continue in our efforts to secure the future of the Sonics in Seattle."
Bennett's proposal to use public money to fund the majority of a $500 million new suburban arena failed to even make it to a vote in the state Legislature last spring.
Bennett appears to be slowly distancing himself from those who have past history with the Sonics. Wilkens' resignation is added to the loss of assistant coach and former player Jack Sikma; and the selection P.J. Carlesimo as head coach, instead of Dwane Casey, a former Sonics' assistant.
Seattle has also had major front-office turnover, with assistant GM Rich Cho the only significant holdover from the previous staff.
"I am extremely competitive, I'm driven to win and I have a deep passion for the game. I wish the Sonics well in the future," Wilkens said.
Wilkens, the NBA's career victory leader, coached the Sonics to their only championship in 1979. He spent 11 seasons as a player-coach or coach of the SuperSonics, part of his 32 seasons as an NBA coach. He has a career mark of 1,332-1,155.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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