- The Washington Times - Monday, October 9, 2000

Maybe we ought to check back on this one in, say, February: Philadelphia 76ers star Allen Iverson, the former Georgetown flash, says he wants to become a strong leader this season. Honest he does.

You'll have to pardon a little healthy skepticism, because Iverson's image during his first four NBA seasons has been as a strict individualist who can do marvelous offensive things with a basketball. But at 25, he says he's ready to start staring at the big picture.

"I'm just looking forward to having the best season I've had so far, and I don't think that comes with stats or anything like that," Iverson said last week. "It just comes with being the leader of a team."

Coach Larry Brown says Iverson has shown an interest in becoming the Sixers' captain a possibility that in previous years would have seemed about as likely as his being elected mayor. Brown and Iverson had tangled frequently over ways and means, but now the veteran coach sounds like he's seriously considering the idea.

"He's really attentive and trying hard. He's trying to play within the team concept," said Brown, a control freak who likes to run his teams with something of a mailed fist.

As captain and leader, of course, Iverson would have to observe little niceties like showing up for practices on time. And to his credit, he seems to realize their importance.

"I always relied on raw talent before," the Big A said. "All I had to do was wake up, come in the gym and be able to play the way I'm capable. But it doesn't work that way. Every time you're not working on your game, somebody else is working on their game and getting better."

So far, the "new" Iverson sounds very good, but Brown undoubtedly needs to be convinced that Allen will score high as a team man, too. So let's give Iverson the benefit of the doubt right now but withhold our final judgment.

Seattle Slew's rally

Twenty-three years after he won the Kentucky Derby, Seattle Slew is living the good life among the rolling hills and lush Kentucky bluegrass of Three Chimneys Farm near Lexington. And in case you think he doesn't appreciate it, listen to Mickey Taylor, his majority owner and syndicate manager.

"I've been around horses my whole life, but I've never heard of or been around one as smart as this one," Taylor says. So the horse probably knows how lucky he is, too.

Last January, the 26-year-old could barely walk when Taylor and his wife, Karen, were summoned to Three Chimneys. Following spinal fusion surgery to save his life in April, Seattle Slew has gotten steadily stronger and is almost back to being his old self.

"His recovery has been remarkable," Mickey Taylor says. "He still leans a little bit, but it's manageable. It's a lot better than it was in July and August. And if you go back to January, it's just unreal."

Back then, his handlers had noticed that Seattle Slew was weak and was struggling to walk in a straight line. Recalls Mickey Taylor: "He was bent over to the right and walking like a crab almost sideways. There was very little coordination. I had never seen a horse like that. It was enough to make you cry."

Officials at Three Chimneys also noticed he wasn't doing as well as a stud. A bone scan revealed that arthritic changes in several vertebrae had been causing intense pressure on the horse's spinal cord. Fortunately, the surgery solved the problem, and now the famous horse is a happy senior citizen camper once again.

You would have to say he's certainly entitled.

Eminently quotable

Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick, on why the Chicago Bears' 1985 NFL champions would be an also-ran now: "A team that is so totally reliant on defense in today's game would have a tough time winning the Super Bowl. The game has changed so much. You need to be more explosive if you think you have a chance to win the Super Bowl nowadays." …

Deposed Los Angeles Dodgers skipper Davey Johnson, on whether he will manage again: "It's too soon for me to think about my future. When you're no longer there, you need to catch your breath, clear your head a little bit. You never make big decisions until you get away a little bit." …

Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, who will be 90 Saturday, on the award he treasures the most: "When I graduated from Purdue University, I received the Big Ten medal as the senior athlete with the highest grade-point average. I did that. All the other awards [like those incredible 10 NCAA tournament championships] my teams won." …

German superstar Lothar Matthaeus of the New York/New Jersey MetroStars, on the status of pro soccer in the United States: "It's growing in America, and I hope the level goes up, too. The women's soccer is the best in the world, and the men's soccer can be in the [top world] group with Brazil and Italy in the next 10 years." …

Soccer legend Pele, on why Brazil is having a hard time finding a coach for its national men's team: "The problem is not the coach but the lack of organization and honesty among our officials. We should implement a complete renewal of our soccer program and our national team, with young players. Too many changes have been made in recent years, and the result is that now we do not have a real, stable national team."

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