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Oklahoma Memories

Coach Iba and the 1972 Olympics


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"Doug Collins has perhaps won the game...2 seconds...somebody has gone down on the floor. The Russian coach and Hank Iba are - or a Russian official and Hank Iba were yelling at each other, and bedlam has taken over here at the basketball hall."

That's the voice of the ABC sportscaster broadcasting what he thought was the end of the USA vs USSR basketball game at the Munich Olympics in 1972.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

Basketball and Oklahoma State University are linked together as almost no other sport and school combination can claim. One man is responsible for that linkage, legendary basketball coach Henry Iba. We remember Coach Iba for his 767 wins, for winning national championships after World War 2, and for the many quality players who were in his program and the many coaches who say they owe their success to him. But we also remember Coach Iba for the one game he didn't win...the game against the Russians in the 1972 Munich Olympics.

In an interview just weeks before he left for those Olympics, he talked about the players we thought he'd need to won the gold in Munich.

"I hope that we can come up with some guards like we had in '64 and like we had in '68. Right now I can't see three great centers in the United States that might be an Olympian."

And what about the competition? Coach Iba was asked what teams he thought would be the strongest competition for the USA team.

"If you remember last fall, the Russian team came over and played what we call a rookie pros throughout, and they played nine ballgames. They won the first eight and lost the one out at Utah."

But that wasn't Coach Iba's only concern. He was particularly aware of the difference in the officials and how they call international games, especially at the Olympics.

"but let's be sure that we scout the officials so we know exactly how the official's going to call it."

His words were prophetic. It was the officiating that allowed the Soviet Union to win, costing the Americans the gold medal as his team lost 51 to 50. Doug Collins had given the Americans their first lead of the game, 50-49, when he hit two free throws with only three seconds to play. The Soviet squad attempted to put the ball in play under its own basket, but the inbounds pass was deflected, time ran out, and the Americans began to celebrate what they thought was their gold-medal victory."Now you have me totally confused. They're changing the clock is what they're doing. They're going back to three seconds is what the PA announcer said. So they'll have to speculate that...it's all over! Wow, what a finish. The United States winning their eighth consecutive gold now. This place has gone crazy."

Their joy was short-lived. The secretary-general of the International Basketball Federation came down from the stands, overruled the officials, ordered the game clock reset at three seconds, giving the Soviet team another chance to put the ball into play."Now we're being told the scoreboard is not correct, and they are running the clock down as Hank Iba comes to the bench to get the official count. The horn had sounded, but apparently they are going to move the clock back down to the three seconds that was indicated was official."

It took some to restore order on the court."Now the clock shows three seconds. There is time for the Russians to go to their big man, Aleksandr Belov. They're going to try. Aleksandr Belov!"

And that wasn't the only thing stolen from Coach Iba that night. During the melee at the end of the game, Iba removed his jacket. After the game finally was over, Iba went over to the team bench to pick up his jacket. It was then that he discovered his wallet had been stolen from a pocket in the jacket.

You can see the Olympic jacket that Coach Iba wore in the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo in the sports exhibit at the Oklahoma History Center on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. From the Oklahoma History Center, I'm Michael Dean.