Stuck on 938, Wilkens to go for mark vs. Bullets


ATLANTA -- Even Hollywood couldn't have scripted Atlanta Hawks coach Lenny Wilkens' quest for all-time record win No. 939 any better.

He had a chance last Friday to do it on the road against the Cleveland Cavaliers, for whom he recorded 316 of his wins. Atlanta lost.

The next chance came here on Tuesday against the Portland Trail Blazers -- Wilkens' second coaching stop. Atlanta lost.

Wednesday, he had the chance to do it against the Knicks in New York, Wilkens' hometown.

Atlanta lost.

Tonight, Wilkens gets opportunity No. 4, with the Hawks hosting a struggling and injury-riddled Washington Bullets team that has lost 13 of its past 14 games.

The Hawks have been ready. Hats with the number "939" have been traveling with the team since Wilkens won his 938th game -- tying Red Auerbach's record for coaching victories -- last week against the San Antonio Spurs. Special cakes in honor of the occasion have been baked -- and eventually eaten.

The only thing the Hawks and Wilkens need now is a win. Atlanta, with three straight losses, is 12-19.

"This is the hardest 13 games I've ever had to win," Wilkens said at a news conference following the game against the Knicks.

If the Hawks win tonight -- and there's a good chance they will -- itwill mean that the two biggest victories of Wilkens' 22-year coaching career came against the Bullets. On June 1, 1979, Wilkens coached Seattle to a 97-93 win over the Bullets at the Capital Centre, giving Wilkens his only NBA championship.

The pressures of the record pursuit might be having an effect on the Hawks.

"It's just frustrating because I'm trying to get the guys to play and win and forget it," Wilkens said.

Asked whether achieving the record-breaking win has become an albatross, Wilkens said no.

"It will not be an albatross, believe me," Wilkens said. "[The record] is too prestigious."

But it has been a burden to a young team in transition.

"I'd be lying if I said I didn't think about it," Hawks forward Ken Norman said. "The sooner it happens, the better."

And the sooner it happens, the sooner the parties will begin. If Wilkens breaks the record tonight, a ceremony will be held at tomorrow night's game here against the New Jersey Nets with commissioner David Stern in attendance.

Wilkens will be presented a crystal sculpture of himself and players from each of the four teams he has coached.

All Wilkens needs is the win.

"I'm trying not to look for it, but it's there," Wilkens said. "I'm trying not to talk about it, because I don't want them thinking about it. I told the guys that we have to go out and play and get this over as quickly as possible."

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