Sunday, March 16, 2003

Hawks' bench packs powerful 1-2 punch

Wilkins, English offer knowledge to young players

By Keith Parsons
The Associated Press

ATLANTA - Dominique Wilkins, the "Human Highlight Film" during his playing days, sat on the Atlanta Hawks' bench before a recent game, his 6-foot-7 frame sprawled across two chairs.

On the court, Hall of Famer Alex English ran players through shooting drills.

Two of the top 11 scorers in NBA history, they're now part of the same coaching staff.

"It's an honor to work with those guys every day," guard Jason Terry said.

English originally was hired as director of player development, but when Lon Kruger was fired in December, English became the top assistant for new coach Terry Stotts. Wilkins has been back with the Hawks for nearly three seasons.

He is an assistant in player development and sits on the bench during home games, and attends most practices.

"I love it," Wilkins said. "Working with these young guys, trying to help them out. There's nothing like it."

Well, it might be better if Atlanta was winning more.

During games, English and Wilkins often are the main attractions, drawing cheers when they walk on the court and signing autographs after games

"It's nice to be appreciated," Wilkins said.

Terry knows they can still play. He's familiar with what Wilkins did for the team as a player. And recently, he watched one of English's old games on ESPN Classic.

"I was kind of surprised, though," Terry said. "Coach English always talks about defense, rebounding, making the extra pass, but from what I saw, all he was doing was shooting."

English has a simple explanation: check the stats.

"Don't worry about points, look at my rebounds and assists," he said.

For the record, he averaged 5.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists.

But English and Wilkins are best known as scorers. Wilkins finished his career with 26,668 points, ninth on the all-time list. English's total of 25,613 is 11th.

"Those guys were gunners, man," said Clippers coach Dennis Johnson. "They could fill it up.

"But they were more than just scorers. 'Nique was a great rebounder, and Alex did all the little things to help his team win. They were winners."

When he left the NBA as a player, Wilkins was seventh in career scoring. Yet when the league announced its top 50 players of the first 50 years, he was left off the list, a decision that still bothers him.

"That hurt. I feel like I did everything I could when I played," Wilkins said. "People say we never won when I was in Atlanta, but we made the playoffs every year.

"But the other guys know I should have been there. Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas, those guys lobbied pretty hard for me after it was over, and that was nice."

For now, though, Wilkins and English are focused on their new careers. Wilkins has talked about his wish of becoming a head coach in the NBA, and English led the North Charleston Lowgators to the finals as a head coach in the first season of the National Basketball Development League.

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