Allen Iverson could have prevented one of the worst seasons of Coach K’s Duke career


Though it’s been a while since he’s touched professional hardwood, let alone played in NCAA action, Allen Iverson has made his mark at Georgetown. Playing under John Thompson, the guard proved to be a legitimate talent. His two seasons with the Hoyas propelled him to the NBA, and from there the rest is history.

In hindsight, however, things could have been much different. Can you imagine the AI ​​dressing up for Coach K and the Duke Blue Devils?

Although it never happened, Iverson recently admitted that he had unofficially visited Duke and met Bobby Hurley. At the risk of indulging in a hypothetical situation, it’s easy to see how this collegiate commitment could have changed the course of Mike Krzyzewski’s career.

Allen Iverson admitted he had an affinity for Bobby Hurley and wanted to go to Duke

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As longtime basketball fans know, Iverson traveled to Georgetown after his mother convinced John Thompson to take a chance on the teenager. Had he had his choice of programs, however, the AI ​​might have done things a little differently.

“I thought about it, I really wanted to go to Notre Dame,” the goalie told Dan Patrick in a recent interview. “I wanted to go to Notre Dame, and then Joe Smith went to Maryland, so I thought of Maryland to play with him. And then I went to Duke for a visit not really, but I, you know, I’m went there, and I got to meet Bobby Hurley. Bobby Hurley was my favorite college basketball player. … So I really wanted to go because I loved Bobby Hurley so much.

To be fair to Iverson, however, he admitted that he was more of a Hurley fan than a general Duke fan. It is unclear, however, if this would have influenced his ultimate choice.

The AI’s arrival would have been perfectly timed to avoid one of the worst periods of Coach K’s career

Allen Iverson (L) and Coach K (R) in the 1990s. | Getty Images/Staff, Doug Pensinger/Staff

Based on raw talent alone, Allen Iverson would have improved Coach K’s roster at any point in history. The guard’s NCAA career, however, was perfectly timed with when Krzyzewski needed him most.

Let’s go back to the 1994-95 basketball season. Despite losing in the previous year’s NCAA title game, Duke struggled. The team was seriously lacking in top-end talent – ​​they only had four players averaging double-digit points per game, and only one of those players, Cherokee Parks, posted more than 13 per outing – and has had trouble. To make matters worse, Coach K only spent 12 games on the sidelines before medical issues forced him to walk away from the team. The Blue Devils went 13-18 and failed to reach the NCAA Tournament. Surely the AI ​​could have made things a little brighter in Durham.

Although things improved the following year, they did not get that much better. The roster still lacked a true star, and as Duke reached the Big Dance, they crashed out in the first round with an embarrassing loss at the hands of Eastern Michigan.

At the risk of being somewhat reductive, it’s easy to see how Iverson could have mitigated the problem. As a rookie, the guard averages a shade of over 20 points per out. In his second season, that number increased to 25.0 points per contest.

Beyond those points enough to win basketball games, the AI ​​would have made Duke a more dynamic unit. While it’s naive to claim he’d turn someone like Erik Meek or Ricky Price into a world champion, it’s easy to imagine them reaping the rewards of Iverson’s penetration.

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If we want to take the butterfly effect even further, we could consider how Iverson’s presence would have changed Krzyzewski. While he probably still should have run out of time – no list can cure exhaustion and debilitating back pain – the program would probably have been better equipped to survive his absence. If we assume that AI would have only played two more years in college, this could also have opened up Coach K to the possibility of signing players who wanted to leave Duke before graduation. No one left the program early until Elton Brand, William Avery and Corey Maggette did in 1999, and even then it was quite different from the norm.

At this point, all parts have moved on. Iverson had a storied NBA career, Krzyzewski retired, and Duke had no problem recruiting great rookies. With all that said, though, the idea of ​​the AI ​​taking the field at Cameron Indoor Stadium is pretty interesting, even with hypothetical hindsight.

Statistics courtesy of Sport-Reference

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