Having gotten off to a horrific start, this after two years of basically trying to be bad, the Philadelphia 76ers recently hired veteran executive Jerry Colangelo to help right the ship. According to former coach Larry Brown, the team shouldn’t stop there, but instead bring aboard one of its all-time most popular players: Allen Iverson.
Brown coached Iverson in Philadelphia from 1997 to 2003. During those six seasons, the 76ers went 255-205, and they got at least as far as the Eastern Conference semifinals four times, including an appearance in the 2001 NBA Finals.
That’s a far cry from the current Sixers, who have gone 38-142, including 1-25 so far this season, since General Manager Sam Hinkie was hired in 2013. Hinkie has made no secret of his plan to lose in the short term, trading away veterans while accumulating draft picks and cap space, in order to stockpile assets for future success, but it clearly pains Brown to see what is happening with the team.
“I’m sick of what’s going on there,” Brown told Jon Marks of Sheridan Hoops. “You know I care about the Sixers. It’s an unbelievable basketball city and I had a great experience there. I don’t want to get on them when they’re struggling, but they don’t have any veteran leadership. I want to help. I could straighten it out in five minutes. I wish they’d get Allen [Iverson] involved. All those young kids worship him.”
So Brown is actually suggesting the 76ers make two hires — Iverson and himself. Of course, Brown already has a job, even if it is one from which he is currently suspended, and that is as head coach of Southern Methodist University.
It is a hallmark of Brown’s Hall of Fame career, however, never to stay in one place for very long. SMU is the third college team the 75-year-old has coached, after stints at Kansas, where he won the 1988 national championship, and at UCLA before then; he has also coached nine NBA teams, winning a title with the 2004 Pistons.
So Brown certainly has experience, but with the 76-year-old Colangelo already on hand, it is highly unlikely that the 76ers would also hire him back out of the college ranks. In Iverson’s case, the team has brought him back for ceremonial occasions, but it has offered no indication of giving him a front-office job.
Iverson was the centerpiece of the 76ers’ 2001 Finals participants, as he was in many other season after being the No. 1 pick of the 1996 draft out of Georgetown. He is tied with Wilt Chamberlain for the franchise record for career points per game (27.6) and with Maurice Cheeks in steals per game (2.3).
One of the major criticisms of Hinkie’s tenure is that he has left the 76ers devoid of any veteran players, and the team is sorely lacking that sort of guidance both on the court and, particularly in the case of prized rookie Jahlil Okafor, off of it. Iverson, who last played in the NBA in 2010, would seem to be well-positioned to offer the young Philadelphia players plenty of wisdom gleaned from his 14 seasons in the league.
On the other hand, Iverson has also been known to have his share of off-court issues, and the 76ers may be wary of him taking on a full-time mentoring role. If nothing else, though, giving the 11-time all-star an official position with the team would certainly please its fan base, and as Brown indicated, that’s a group of people who, at this point, deserve something for which to cheer.