We've been kind of kicking this around for a while, the ultimate collection
of Duke what-ifs. There are a whole bunch of them, too.
- What if Red Auerbach had stayed? He signed on as an assistant to Gerry Gerard when Gerard was dying, with the idea that he would take over.
But he wasn't comfortable with that and left. If he had stayed at Duke
a long time, there would have been some awesome ego battles with the likes
of Everett Case, and especially Frank McGuire and Dean Smith.
- What if Bill Bradley hadn't backed out on Duke at the last minute and gone
to Princeton instead? He took Princeton to the Final Four pretty much
by himself. What might have happened with the great talent Duke had at the
- What if Bob Verga hadn't gotten sick during the 1966 Final Four? Kentucky
lost to Texas Western (now UTEP) in a starkly black-white final, so it's
just as well they got that spot in history instead of Duke. But could
Duke have beaten Texas Western? Certainly they had more talent than Kentucky
did that year.
- We can't swear that this is true, but we heard that Duke was in the final
three for both Bill Walton and David Thompson. If it was, can you
- What if, in 1986, David Henderson hadn't gone into a slump at the end of
the year? Duke was a better team than Louisville for a good bit of
that game. What if they had played to their full potential?
- What if Robert Brickey hadn't gotten hurt against Seton Hall in
1989? Duke was up 18 when he got hurt, and lost by 18. Michigan
won the title behind Glen Rice.
- What if Grant Hill hadn't gotten hurt early against Arkansas in the Finals
in 1994? He played after getting hurt, but it clearly affected him.
- What if Chris Webber had picked Duke over Michigan instead of the other
way 'round? Duke would have probably won in 1993 for a
- Kobe Bryant said if he went to college, "it would have been
Duke." So he would have been a freshman in 1997, and a sophomore in
1998, joining with the Killer Bees. Certainly Duke would have used him
to stop Kentucky's comeback in 1998, and if he stuck around into 1999, Duke
would have been overwhelming.
There are a lot of other what-ifs, like Chris Mullin almost choosing Duke,
and David Robinson apparently seriously considering a transfer from the Naval
None of it matters; it's just fun to think about. If you figure
Auerbach was worth at least as many titles as Smith and Krzyzewski, that would
have been three titles. If he had stayed through the Bubas era, you
couldn't count one or two more titles from Bradley and a healthy Verga, but just
for fun, say he left in 1957 when Russell came out. Walton and Thompson on
the same team? Three.
And in the K era, the Lousville game with Henderson's offense at 100%?
Yep. With a healthy Brickey in 1989? Most likely. With a healthy
Grant Hill - much less with Chris Webber - in 94? Yep. With Kobe Bryant in '98?
Maybe '97? And '99? Not to mention David Robinson as a transfer?
As the old saw has it, if wishes were horses, then beggars would ride.
But that's double figures in titles - not counting the back-to-back pair.