PHILADELPHIA -- Pat Croce counseled and coddled Allen
Iverson, tried to trade him once, then watched the star guard turn
the slight into an MVP season and a trip to the NBA Finals.
Maybe if Croce were still president of the Philadelphia 76ers he
would have traded Iverson before this season, or perhaps he would
have put the talent around his mercurial guard to keep the Sixers a
Impossible to know for sure. But Croce said there's no way he'd
try and shop Iverson while the former MVP was sitting home on his
sofa, getting paid millions for doing absolutely nothing but wait
for word on his new destination.
"Allen Iverson is resting at home while they're shopping him,"
Croce said Wednesday. "That amazes me. I don't know the dynamics
or the drama behind that decision, but it just amazes me they sent
Allen Iverson home, not suspended, when you're telling everyone you
want to trade him."
All the NBA knows Iverson is available. What's been harder to
figure out is who exactly wants him, and for what. Once expected to
be completed within days, a deal for Iverson dragged on without an
answer for another day, and there's no telling when the Sixers will
"You can follow me, but I'm not saying anything," team
president Billy King said to three reporters trailing him before
Wednesday night's game, cell phone pressed to his ear.
Iverson was inactive against the Boston Celtics, his fourth
straight game on the list. Chairman Ed Snider said Iverson has
probably played his last game for the Sixers, after the four-time
scoring champion requested a trade last week.
"It's a stressful situation for a lot of people," coach
Maurice Cheeks said. "I don't have any news for you. My job is
really about coaching the players in the locker room."
The bitter parting surprised Croce, who was Sixers president
from 1996-01 and erupted in jubilance when they won the draft
lottery in 1996 and plucked Iverson out of Georgetown with the No.
1 overall pick. Croce always thought Iverson would end his career
"He talked often about ending his career (here) like Julius
Erving and that his father was a Sixers fan and it meant a lot to
him to play for the team," Croce said from Los Angeles in a
But Iverson could no longer work with Cheeks, and the star
player still hadn't used up his allotment of defiant acts, blowing
off a team bowling event which earned him a fine. Those were two of
the final straws that saw Iverson and the Sixers realize they'd be
better off without each other.
They were the kind of brewing blowups where Croce would once try
and act as mediator, like he did in 1999 when he sat Iverson and
former coach Larry Brown in a room and persuaded them to hash out
their differences. Croce rejects building criticism that he was too
soft on Iverson.
"I suspended him in Boston. I suspended him in Miami," Croce
said. "We had a war over Larry Brown at one time. We had a war
over his rap lyrics."
Croce later added: "Larry Brown didn't want be the bad guy. He'd call me when he
left a shootaround or a practice and I'd suspend him.
"I'm not saying he wasn't coddled as a star, because he was.
But there was no way I'd look the other way, therefore my staff
looked the other way."
Fed up with a string of embarrassing incidents, the Sixers were
set to trade Iverson to Detroit in the summer of 2000 before the
deal infamously collapsed. Motivated by the near-deal, Iverson went
on to win the MVP the next season and led the Sixers to the NBA
Finals before losing to the Lakers.
Whatever team acquires Iverson, still leading the league in
scoring with 31.2 points, will get a player who gives the
opposition a headache on the court and his own team a migraine off
"I think Allen Iverson thrives in chaos," Croce said. "Every
two weeks he would do something that would cause chaos to the
franchise and we'd have to iron it out, straighten it out. I think
because he's brought up in that environment, that's how he thrives.
What he does off the court and on the court are very similar. He
thrives in chaos on the court."
Former Sixer Todd MacCulloch is sorry to see Iverson's time here
end like this. Now the team's radio analyst, MacCulloch remembers
Iverson as an outgoing, fun teammate to be around in the locker
room and on the team plane. Iverson would keep everyone loose with
jokes, songs, even caricatures he would draw to tease teammates
That's what MacCulloch thinks Iverson's legacy will be.
"When he goes into the Hall of Fame, it will probably be in a
Sixers jersey," MacCulloch said. "I think people will remember
the finals in 2001 and he was the biggest reason the Sixers got
back to the championship. It was how hard he played.
"Obviously that's not what's fresh on anybody's mind right now
when he's still here and there's been so much turmoil on the
Turmoil is as much a part of Iverson as cornrows, tattoos,
30-point games and his killer crossover. No one can talk about his
magnificent talent without mentioning him as a magnet for trouble.
"Yeah, there's going to be the other stuff, the off the court
antics and the trouble, but that's a footnote," Croce said. "I
think he'll be remembered as someone who took us to the promised
land on his back."