What if . . .
- . . . Alex Rodriguez had been traded to Boston?
- . . . The '94 MLB strike never happened?
- . . . Babe Ruth was sold elsewhere?
- . . . Williams and Dimaggio didn't go to war?
- . . . Michael Jordan had continued playing baseball?
- . . . N.C. State hadn't pulled off its miracle?
- . . . The Blazers had better injury luck?
- . . . Big Ben was drafted by the Giants?
- . . . Donald Trump had made the Bills great?
- . . . Drew Brees had passed his Dolphins physical?
- . . . These field goal attempts had been good?
- . . . George Halas had died in a boat wreck?
- . . . Jim Harbaugh had stuck with Alex Smith as 49ers quarterback?
- . . . The NFL map looked like this?
- . . . Peyton Manning went to San Diego?
- . . . Teddy Roosevelt hadn't revolutionized football?
- . . . Terrell Owens was elected to the NFL Hall of Fame?
- . . . LeBron James had chosen soccer over basketball?
- . . . U.S. soccer got the right call in the '02 World Cup?
- . . . Cleveland had been saved by George Steinbrenner?
- . . . These draft moments had happened differently?
- . . . Injuries had never altered these five careers?
- . . . Lance Armstrong had been whipped by cancer?
- . . . Muhammad Ali had never met Malcolm X?
- . . . PEDs had been legal all along?
- . . . Steve Bartman had never gone to Wrigley?
- . . . Things had happened differently for these four illustrious coaches?
- . . . Tiger Woods had pursued a career as a Navy Seal?
- . . . These trades had actually happened?
- . . . Wayne Gretzky hadn't been traded to the Kings?
Neil Leifer; Photo illustration by SI Premedia
What If ... things had happened differently for these four illustrious coaches?
by Jacob Feldman
Four esteemed coaches were a decision (or a poorly timed phone call) away from taking a diverging path. From John Wooden to Bill Belichick, here’s how the landscape of coaching greats could look vastly different.
WHAT IF ... A 1948 blizzard just misses the Twin Cities, allowing University of Minnesota’s athletic director to place his pitch phone call to the hoops coach he wanted: John Wooden. (In real life, the lines were down, costing the Gophers.) When UCLA calls hours later, Wooden says “thanks but no thanks”.
NEW ENDING: The Wizard of Williams Arena revolutionizes basketball from the North Star State, softening the blow of the Lakers’ move to L.A. in 1960.
WHAT IF ... After a visit to church to pray on the matter, Giants assistant Vince Lombardi decides to keep his word—despite a strong push from his wife to renege—and accepts the Eagles’ head coach position in 1957.
NEW ENDING: Lombardi brings multiple titles to Philadelphia, leading to a generation of fans known for being friendly and content—and for having “God, family and the Philadelphia Eagles” tattooed in all the wrong places.
WHAT IF ... Army’s Bob Knight interviews for Wisconsin’s vacant basketball coach position in 1968, wows the AD, gets the offer and plans on accepting—but in this reality, Knight doesn’t angrily back out when UW preemptively announces the decision.
NEW ENDING: With his motion offense and demanding demeanor, the General turns the Badgers into title contenders. Alas, his combative nature wears thin even faster amidst the “Wisconsin Nice.” Purdue comes to dominate Hoosier-state hoops.
WHAT IF ... Giants coach Ray Perkins turns down Alabama and stays in N.Y. in 1983.
NEW ENDING: Bill Parcells remains stuck as defensive coordinator—until he gets the Browns’ head job in ’91 and takes Bill Belichick with him. A stink remains on both men after Cleveland clears house in ’95. (What, you think Parcells could’ve cleaned up that?) Belichick takes a job at Newsday.