Lenny Wilkens: Hall of Famer reflects on leading Toronto Raptors to first-ever postseason series win in 2001 | NBA.com Canada

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On May 4, 2001, the Toronto Raptors made history by earning the first postseason series win in franchise history, defeating the New York Knicks in a decisive Game 5.

On the sidelines for the Raptors was Hall of Famer Lenny Wilkens, who experienced great success in his first year as the head coach of a franchise that was only a few years removed from its inception. For the 20th anniversary of Toronto’s historic feat, Wilkens joined me on the Raptors Podtable Podcast to re-live memories from the 2000-01 season and the franchise’s first-ever playoff victory.

After the Raptors faced a 2-1 series deficit, All-Star Vince Carter continued his ascension into superstardom, leading the team to two straight victories to defeat the Knicks in a best-of-five series. Toronto also benefitted from the play of its other All-Star, Antonio Davis, a fourth-year guard in Alvin Williams and two former Knicks in Chris Childs and Charles Oakley.

In a special edition of the Raptors Podtable, Wilkens discussed a number of topics from throughout that season, including:

  • His decision to take over as the Raptors head coach in 2000 (7:15 minute mark)
  • The team’s mentality ahead of its postseason rematch with the Knicks (11:30)
  • How to motivate a team when facing elimination (14:30)
  • The duel between Carter and Allen Iverson in the Eastern Conference Semifinals (18:00)
  • His thoughts while watching the Raptors capture their first-ever NBA title in 2019 (19:40)

Wilkens, who was extremely complimentary of the city of Toronto and its fan base, served as the Raptors head coach for three seasons, leading the franchise to back-to-back postseason appearances in 2001 and 2002.

In 2001, Toronto fell just one win shy of the Eastern Conference Finals and in 2002, the team took the Detroit Pistons to the limit in a best-of-five series despite the fact that Carter was sidelined for the entire series.

A Hall of Famer as a player and a coach, Wilkens is the second-winningest head coach in NBA history, amassing 1,332 wins over 36 seasons. He led the Seattle SuperSonics to an NBA title in 1979 and led the United States Men’s National Team to Olympic Gold in 1996.

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