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Thread: Making the 1968 US Olympic Team, a Troubled History

  1. #1
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    Default Making the 1968 US Olympic Team, a Troubled History

    Half a century ago in October the US Olympic team won the gold at the Mexico City Olympic Games after a troublesome process of selection, trials and preparation.

    Year 1968 was loaded with great collegiate talents, both from the seniors ranks (PoY Elvin Hayes, Wes Unseld, Don May, Larry Miller, Bob Kauffman etc) and from juniors/underclassmen (Lew Alcindor –later Abdul Kareem Jabbar- Lucius Allen, Neal Walk, Jo Jo White, Calvin Murphy, Rick Mount and Pete Maravich who had averaged an amazing 43.8 ppg in his sophomore year at LSU).

    Many believed that an Olympic team with the best college players (no pros were allowed!) would have been equal or even superior to the famed 1956 and 1960 teams. However, the selection process proved to be a nightmare, trials were marred by problems and the final roster raised a lot of perplexities among critics.

    Teams Trials Selection

    Trials were set to be held at the beginning of April in Albuquerque, NM, in front of a 45-man selection committee chaired by former NYU head coach Ben Carnevale. Henry “Hank” Iba (Oklahoma State) had been named the Olympic team head coach for the second time.

    The political, social turmoils and racial tensions that shook America (and partly Europe) during 1968 affected the sports environment as well, in form of an Olympic games boycott threat that spread through the whole country.

    Citing academic engagements, invitations to the basketball trials were declined by three UCLA top stars, Alcindor, Allen and Mike Warren, who implicitly favored the boycott. But refusals came by many other basketball stars in form of academic issues, fatigue, early pro commitments, etc.

    Here’s what Sports Illustrated wrote on April 15, 1968 under the title “The Team that went over the hill” by Curry Kirkpatrick:

    The Olympic Trials were chiefly distinguished by the absence of 20 of our best college players.

    The intrusive priorities of school work, pro contracts, tired bones and a threatened boycott having taken their toll, the U.S. Olympic basketball trials finally reached the showdown stage last week... True enough, the Olympic Committee had coaxed and cajoled sufficient players into coming to Albuquerque for the tournament. ... But most of the interest centered around those who didn't appear.

    The Big E had taken money (to sign a contract with the San Diego Rockets), Big Lew had taken a stand (he admits his decision included implicit approval of the boycott) and many others had just taken a powder of undetermined origin.

    In addition to Houston's Hayes and UCLA's Alcindor, among the missing were Louisville's Westley Unseld, who said he was tired, Dayton's Don May, who said he was exhausted, and North Carolina's Larry Miller, who said he was injured. Some, by sheer silence coupled with their absence, seemed to be saying best wishes, Olympics, but drop dead.

    "We sat down the other day and figured it out," said Pete Newell, coach of the 1960 Olympic team and a member of the selection committee. "We've lost 20 to 25 of the country's top college players, including the six best centers."

    Since a great majority of the absentees were seniors interested in a professional basketball career, it was thought that fine old standard, money, was rearing its ugly head again. Harsh as the judgment may seem, some players obviously were passing up the old red, white and blue for some long green. Olympic Coach Henry Iba went so far as to call the dropouts "bad citizens."
    Up to 1964 Olympics senior stars would forego signing with NBA until after completing their duties with the national team, but by 1968 the pros had got an additional franchise, the ABA, who had declared war in the signing race of top college players. At the same time of the Olympic trials, both Hayes and Unseld, NBA’s #1 and #2 draft picks, had received even better offers by ABA’s Houston Mavericks and Kentucky Colonels but finally chose the well established NBA opting for multi-year contracts with San Diego Rockets and Baltimore Bullets.

    To add even more confusion, also the Harlem Globetrotters, under new ownership after the death of their founder/mentor Abe Saperstein, had entered the race for an early signing of Elvin Hayes, making offers that however didn’t match those of the two main pro leagues.

    Participants were selected after pre-trials exhibitions and all-star meets. From NCAA side four squads were invited: three university teams (named Blue, Red and White as per tradition) and one College Division. Other collegiate teams came from NAIA, the surprise winner of the 1967 Pan American games trials, and for the first time a NJCAA (Junior Colleges) squad was invited. AAU and Armed Forces all stars, both established trials presence, completed the rosters, in total 88 players spread among eight teams.

    Interestingly, among the early invitees was the only high school player, All-American Ralph Simpson, a 6’5 guard-forward from Pershing HS, who turned down the invitation. Simpson’s former teammate at Pershing was the US Olympic team eventual member and top scorer Spencer Haywood. (Simpson would drop from college after his sophomore year, 1970, to start a fine pro career with ABA’s Denver Rockets).

    NAIA top choice for the trials, f/c 6’8 Bob Kauffman of Guilford College withdrew to finish his studies and pursue a pro-career. Kauffman was selected by Seattle Supersonics as the #3 overall pick of 1968 Draft.

    Other notable players who ultimately turned down invitations were Winston-Salem State scoring record holder 6’6 forward Bill English and Abilene Christian all-time great John Ray Godfrey, a 6’3 guard, both from the NCAA College Division ranks.

    Henry Logan, Western Carolina guard and NAIA national leading scorer with 36.2 ppg (and former member of the 1967 Pan American Games team) was in the initial roster but finally didn’t make the trials team.

    Despite being mainly tagged for their missing stars, the 1968 trials rosters included several college scoring aces:

    • Pete Maravich, 6’5, NCAA Blue, Louisiana State 1970, 43.8 ppg (top NCAA 1967-68)
    • Calvin Murphy, 5’9, NCAA White, Niagara 1970, 38.2
    • Rich Travis, 6’1, NCAA Blue, Oklahoma City 1969, 29.9
    • Bob Portman, 6’5, NCAA White, Creighton 1969, 29.5
    • Rick Mount, 6’4, NCAA Red, Purdue 1970, 28.4
    • Fred Foster, 6’5, NCAA Blue, Miami OH 1968, 26.9
    • John Rinka, 5’9, NCAA College Div, Kenyon Coll. 1970, 31.3
    • Larry Jeffries, 6’3, NCAA College Div, Trinity 1968, 27.1
    • Glynn Saulters, 6’2, NAIA, NE Louisiana 1968, 31.3
    • Dwight Durante, 5’8, NAIA, Catawba Coll. 1969, 28.3
    • Ollie Taylor,6’2, NJCAA, San Jacinto Coll. 1968 (Houston 1970), 30.7
    • Johnny Johnson, 6’6, NJCAA, NW Wyoming CC 1968 (Iowa 1970), 29.5

    However, all these talents were guards or small forwards and it was everybody’s perception that a dominant big man was terribly lacking.

    Top scorers Maravich and Murphy played brilliantly in NCAA pre-trials games.
    Maravich got loud cheers for his snazzy ball-handling, including behind-the-back and blind-side passes…Murphy managed to score 20 points but he also got in some fancy dribbling and passing to assist others in scoring . But Iba wasn’t dazzled for the vast array of talents …. “Just because we’ve got names doesn’t mean we have a ball club…The biggest problem here is to put them together as a unit” he said.
    (Albuquerque Journal, March 30, 1968, p.26).

    In another pre-trials game, Rick Mount and Jo Jo White led the West over the East 95-88 in Indianapolis. Mount led all scorers with 24 points, while Maravich scored 16 for the East and was named the game outstanding player. (Albuquerque Journal, March 31, 1968).

    Since the trials were to be played under Fiba rules, AAU and Armed Forces teams had an edge over colleges since several of their members had already earned international experience. Only NCAA players with international experience were White and Russ Critchfield of the Red team.

    Trials were held at the new University of New Mexico underground facility “The Pit”, with a capacity of 14,800.

    Players were expected teasing fans with dunking, that had been forbidden in the 1967-68 NCAA season (so called “anti-Alcindor” rule) but was allowed by international rules. However, attendance rarely attained 1,000 during the 3-day trials.

    Adding more troubles, several players were hit by flu right on the eve of trials.

    From Silver City Daily Press, NM, April 4, 1968, page 7:
    Flu Hits Olympic Cage - Altitude and adaptation to international rules took a back chair today as No. 1 problems confronting U.S. Olympic basketball hopefuls. Flu and tardiness hindered final practice sessions Wednesday for the 88-man, eight-team tournament opening today in Albuquerque's 5,000-foot altitude. Stress is being placed this year on trials and training at altitude for the 1968 Olympic Games at 7.500-foot Mexico City.
    Herald-Journal, April 4, 1968, page 20:
    Confusion in practice times and flu harassed final preparations on the eve of the US Olympic basketball trials. LF Diehm, trainer at the U. of New Mexico said 12 players from the eight teams had some form of intestinal flu. Most cases were minor, he said. But John Bach coach of the NCAA blue team said Rick Adelman of Los Angeles Loyola was too ill to attend practice. Oklahoma City’s Rich Travis also complained of stomach pains at practice.

    And All-American Pete Maravich of Louisiana State and Bud Ogden of Santa Clara, also NCAA blue players were 30 minutes late to a workout. Maravich said “no one told us what time it started”.

    Pan American’s 6-foot-11 Otto Moore missed the NCAA College Division team practice saying he thought it was scheduled four hours later. Moore practiced alone on his own.
    From the 88-man roster announced 85 appear to have actually played at the trials. John Vallely, a 1969 & 1970 backcourt star at UCLA, had to leave the Juco squad because of the flu (The Kokomo Tribune, April 4, 1968, p 25), while future NBA All-star Bob Dandridge of NCAA College Division and Ron Kornegay of NAIA teams were also missing, either for illness or whatever other reason.

    Rare image of 1968 NJCAA trials team:

    Source: http://njcaa.org/about/history/75_an...ses/2012-11-15



    End of part 1 of 3

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    Olympic Trials, Albuquerque 4-6 April 1968 - Haywood and Scott Shine, Maravich fails

    (Most information got from Albuquerque Journal, that extensively covered the event).

    Opening round results were a total disappointment for NCAA teams. All lost, failing to access the winning side of the brackets.

    NCAA Takes Beating in Olympic Cage Trials” was the newspaper’s title.

    In the afternoon games watched by just 586 fans Armed Forces used its experience and muscle to subdue the NCAA Reds, while the NAIA downed the NCAA Whites.

    Armed Forces – NCAA Reds 91-78 (44-30)

    The GI squad who had practiced together longer than any other team and more familiar with the fast and rugged play under international rules pushed the collegians all over the court, winning the rebounding battle despite none of its members stood over 6’6. Servicemen also had a better shooting day. After the first 10’ of play the Armed Forces pulled comfortably ahead and were never in trouble, despite a 21-point performance by Purdue soph Rick Mount of the Reds. The only other Red team to live up expectations were Cal’s 5’10 Critchfield and Ohio State’s 6’7 Bill Hosket with 10. Navyman Mike Barrett topped the Armed Forces with 19 points, Army’s George Carter and John Clawson had 16 and 14, while Air Force’s Harry Gilmore and West Point grad Mike Silliman 12. The rugged Silliman led the military’s board control with 11 rebounds.

    NAIA – NCAA Whites 84-77 (36-30)

    The second game was much more closely contested. 6’8 Charlie Paulk, of Northeastern Oklahoma and NBA 1st round selection, led the NAIA scoring together with 6’7 Don Dee from tiny St Mary of the Plains college, KS, with 18 points. Paulk, who couldn’t find the target in the first half got hot in the second scoring 16 points and grabbing 10 rebounds to help NAIA in the win. Dee scored eight of his points in the last five minutes of the first half to pull a 36-30 lead at the intermission. While Paulk and Dee took care of scoring, their 5’8 teammate Dwight Durante of Catawba, NC, took care of highly publicized Calvin Murphy, the second leading scorer in the nation among major colleges with 38.2, who was held to just 8 points. In addition to his defensive job, unheralded Durante played a fine floor game feeding his big men with fine passes. North Carolina sophomore Charlie Scott sparked the Whites with 15 points, helping to pull within in the second half until he fouled out. Teammates Spain and Kentucky’s soph Dan Issel, both 6'9, had 12 and 13 rebounds but no support. Losing coach Ray Meyer summarized “If you can’t shoot you can’t win”. Jim Gudger, the NAIA coach, said: “The difference was our hustle. We out-hustled them. Durante did a good job on Murphy”.

    Attendance was slightly better in the evening games with 1,119, anyhow far below expectations. AAU, winner of all Olympic trials except 1960’s, demolished the NCAA small college group early and then coasted to an easy victory. The talent-laden newcomer Junior Colleges took care of the NCAA Blues with the largest margin of the opening day.

    AAU – NCAA College Division 74-58 (37-22)

    AAU Al-Stars were a mix of experienced post grad players and current collegians. One of them, Fw Edgar Lacey was a RS senior at UCLA who had quit the team mid January in conflict with HoF coach John Wooden. 6’8 fw Steve Kuberski was another collegian in the AAU team, a Bradley sophomore transfer who would actually be drafted by the Celtics in 1969. Forward Ed Johnson and guard Ted McClain were two Tennessee State stars also playing for AAU.

    The AAU team jumped off to a 10-0 lead in the first minutes and the NCAA small college group never recovered. The veterans of AAU playing under international rules worked smoothly at periods. AAU also showed a balanced attack with all players scoring, led by Goodyear’s 6’10 Tom Black and Tennessee’s McClain with 10. The Small Colleges’ touted 6’11 Otto Moore, one of the few big men at the trials, finished with just 6 points and 5 rebounds.

    Junior College – NCAA Blue 88-70 (40-36)

    The talented Jucos All-Stars were led by 6’8 freshman Spencer Haywood, a former HS All-American but virtually unknown to most, by far the best big man in tournament's opener. Haywood had 12 poinst and 10 rebounds “while playing about half the game and moving around the court like a big gazelle”. Another 6’8 juco, Sam Robinson put on a fine shooting performance in the second half with 14 of his 18 total points hitting mostly from the outside. The Jucos also had 6’6 John Johnson and tiny guard Joe Hamilton in double figures with 12. Santa Clara’s fw Bud Ogden was the only Blue scoring in double digits with 10. Heralded sophomore Pete Maravich was held to six points during his brief appearances, hitting 3 of 12 shots from the field. Haywood outplayed the hulking 7’0 Tom Boerwinkle (the tallest player at the trials) in all phases of the game.

    After Day 1 games, the Albuquerque Journal also titled “Name Players Fail to Produce”, mostly referred to Maravich and Murphy poor performance. NCAA Blue’s coach John Bach said “They just outplayed us. … They had too much speed for us and they took advantage of our weakness very well. It’s a gloomy day for NCAA”. Reporters also questioned NCAA decision to field as many as four teams at the expense of quality level.

    Pete Maravich at Day 1 Trials:

    Source: Albuquerque Journal, April 5, 1968, p.33

    Day 2 Losers bracket afternoon games

    NCAA White – NCAA Red 95-82 (37-36)

    Whites were paced by a fine performance of Charlie Scott who scored 24 points, showing he was among the best of the NCAA players at the trials. The first half had both teams alternating at the lead, with the Whites sparked by 6’9 Ken Spain, Calvin Murphy and Scott. JoJo White, Rick Mount and Merv Jackson led the Reds charge. In the second half Scott got hot scoring 16 of his points, well supported by Utah State’s Shaler Halimon, Nebraska’s Stu Lantz and Dan Issel. The Whites shot 50% from the field against 45.8 of the Reds and controlled the boards. Joe Franklin of Wisconsin led the Reds with 18 points.

    NCAA Blue – NCAA College Division 97-92 (36-48)

    Pete Maravich’s Blue team trailing by 17 points in the first half rallied to a close win over the Small Colleges. The national top scorer started for the Blues but saw only 9 and ½ ‘ of action, all in the first half with a poor 6 points output and was benched by coach Bach in the second half. This made the mini crowd of 405 most unhappy, as many had seen his sensational play in the East-West game.
    Pistol Pete Rides the Bench” was the sarcastic comment of the Albuquerque Journal. Many thought that Maravich did not fit with coach Bach and was left aside despite his passing and scoring skills. Bach told New Orleans reporters that Maravich was not big nor strong enough to drive to the basket as necessary in Olympic play. Pistol Pete was one of the players hit by flu just before the trials start. The game’s turning factor in the second half was the hot scoring of 6’8 junior Dave Scholz (Illinois), 6’6 senior Joe Allen (Bradley) and Kentucky’s soph Mike Casey for the Blues. The College Division team was fine in first half, shooting 51.3% and Dallas Thornton of Kentucky Wesleyan hitting 5 of 5 shots, but faded away in the second half.

    Day 2 Winners bracket evening games

    AAU – Armed Forces 71-63 (38-22)

    Easy win of AAU with a final score that didn’t reflect the game development that saw the AAU group leading by as much as 24 points before easing up and committing numerous turnovers. The winners had a good balanced scoring, led by Tennessee State Ed Johnson and Ted McClain with 12. Armed Forces who had a very poor shooting in the first half were much better after the intermission, but the result was no more in doubt. Mike Barrett and George Carter were the only fine scorers among the servicemen with 16 and 14 points. With this win AAU earned another shot for the Trials title.

    NAIA – Junior College 73-69 (33-31)

    NAIA joined AAU for the final clash edging Jucos “in the best contest of the tournament to date”. Little Dwight Durante was the difference, scoring 20 points, 16 in the second half for the NAIA. Jucos had a big rebounding advantage 66-43 and could have won had they shot better at the FT line (just 50%).
    Spencer Haywood continued to impress as the best big man in the tournament with 17 points and a game-high 14 rebounds. Little Joe Hamilton was another impressive Juco with 14 points. 6’10 Julius Keye of the NAIA also had a fine performance. Reporters praised the floor performance of Durante, predicting him as a strong candidate for the Olympic team, despite his short size. From his side, Durante realistically said “I just don’t think they’ll take a man my size. I just hope I can play well in the finals”.

    Day 3 Finals

    7th place game: NCAA Red-NCAA College Division 100-83 (46-35)

    The Small College team was never in the game with the Reds, trailing early by a wide margin. Red team led by as many as 27 points by mid of 2nd half, then coasted to let the Small College closing the gap somewhat. Reds had an excellent 54.2% shooting average and were led by Rick Mount’s second 21-point performance. He was followed by Joe Franklin with 16 and Bill Hosket with 14. Jo Jo White had 12 points and a fine floor game.
    Small College were chilly shooting from the field with 33.7% and were topped by Larry Jeffries of Trinity with 17 points. 6’11 Otto Moore followed with 14, showing “enough at odd moments to be a prime candidate for the Olympics” while moving well under the basket and displaying fine defensive skills on blocking shots.

    5th place game, NCAA White-NCAA Blue 113-85 (53-43)

    Scott Great in Victory by NCAA Whites – Third Big Day For NC Star”. Charlie Scott scored 20 points to lead the White team over the Blues. The flashy guard/forward scored a tournament best of 59 points in three games and proved to be the most outstanding of any major college player. He hit 10 of 15 shots in the last game, many of them from the outside. The Whites also had good scoring from Calvin Murphy with 18 and New Mexico’s Ron Nelson with 16 in their easy win.
    Bulky center Joe Allen was high for the Blues with 19, backed by Miami-Ohio’s Fred Foster with 18. Maravich got to play about half of the game and finished with 12 points but didn’t look particularly sharp. Spain, Issel and Allen all played well among the bigs, indicating they could help solving some of the inside problems the US Olympic team, but Allen (a future big star in Italian league) though very skilled under the basket, couldn’t run as required by Iba, having to permanently wear a long leg brace.

    3rd place game, Armed Forces-Junior College 86-80 (45-37)

    In this final game Juco Spencer Haywood virtually earned a spot in the Olympic team scoring 24 points and pulling down 15 rebounds, a tournament’s high. He finished third in overall scoring with 53, behind Scott and Mount. Armed Forces answered Haywood’s heroics with a 13-0 outburst by mid of 2nd half to take a 75-63 margin and coasting to victory. Armed Forces had a good 52% shooting average and showed a more balanced attack led by George Carter 20 points. Jucos were hurt by 26 turnovers that took away their 47-37 rebounds advantage.

    1st place game, NAIA-AAU 64-59 (29-31)

    NAIA Upsets AAU For Trials Title – Failure To Connect Ruins AAU”.
    That’s the resume of the title game, a low scoring affair.
    You can’t shoot 29 pct and expect to win” said AAU coach Gary Thompson, adding “We just didn’t run. We had easy shots towards the end of the game when we could have tied it up but just couldn’t hit it. We were just too flat”. The starless NAIA All-Stars without too much talent were able to play together as a team, in the words of the winning coach Jim Gudger. Teamwork and intelligent rotation by the head coach were the major factors in the NAIA win.
    That was the first Olympic trials victory for the NAIA and just the second AAU loss.
    Don Dee had a fine game for NAIA leading the way with 15 points, while guard Glynn Saulters of NE Louisiana followed with 14. Bradley sophomore Steve Kuberski was the only AAU player scoring in double digits with 13 points. The taller AAU outrebounded NAIA 64-51 and committed less turnovers but was ruined by ice-cold shooting. Though AAU was ahead by two at the intermission, NAIA led most of the game and took a 10-point margin late in the second half.

    Following the trials, the 45-man committee selected the 12 Olympic team players and picked 6 alternates.

    Olympic Team:

    Spencer Haywood, 6’8, Fr, NJCAA
    Ken Spain, 6’9, Jr, NCAA
    Don Dee, 6’7, Sr, NAIA
    Bill Hosket, 6’7, Sr, NCAA
    Jim King, 6’7, AAU
    Mike Silliman, 6’6, Armed Forces
    Charles Scott, 6’5, Soph, NCAA
    Jo Jo White, 6’3, Jr, NCAA
    John Clawson, 6’4, Armed Forces
    Glynn Saulters, 6’2, Sr, NAIA
    Mike Barrett, 6’2, Armed Forces
    Calvin Fowler, 6’1, AAU

    Alternates:

    Tom Black, 6’10, AAU
    Dan Issel, 6’9, Soph, NCAA
    Charles Paulk, 6’8, Sr, NAIA
    George Carter, 6’5, Armed Forces
    Rick Mount, 6’4, Soph, NCAA
    Joe Hamilton, 5’10, Soph, NJCAA

    Haywood and Scott selection was in everybody’s expectations, as both resulted the most outstanding players at the trials. Haywood, just 18 at that time, was the youngest US Olympic team member ever selected and the first from the JC ranks. His young age raised doubts on his choice, but head coach Iba didn’t care, with his dominant performance at the trials Haywood was the big man needed by the US team. 19 year-old Scott proved to be the most versatile player, as he could brilliantly play both guard and forward.

    Others made the team for their international experience, like White, Silliman, Fowler, Barrett, Clawson and King (a former player at OSU coached by Iba). NAIA’s Dee and Saulters had a good tournament for the winning team and were legitimate choice. Somewhat questionable the selection of the other big, 6’9 Spain, who was preferred to 6’9 alternate soph Dan Issel, maybe regarded as too inexperienced. Another sophomore, high scorer Rick Mount got just the alternate status as well. Maravich failure to make the team was not a surprise, as he went on losing interest in the game, reportedly due to the treatment got by his coach Bach.
    Bypassing Dwight Durante, who made an excellent impression to reporters in the first two games, looked rather unfair but his diminutive size played against a deserved selection (1).

    Ben Carnevale, chairman of the selection committee said factors other than just basketball ability such as general behavior were considered in the selection process.

    Iba admitted that several great players were missing but the Olympic squad had the best of the best available, adding that he felt the team was equal to the one who won the gold at the 1964 Olympics. The team size was obviously still a concern as he added “We’ll have problems when we can’t match height for height. Italy, Yugoslavia and Russia will all bring tall teams. Yugoslavia is the team I’m most worried about …. I feel we can win with ball control. We’re not going down to put the ball up quick. We didn’t in Tokyo and we won.” Iba also said the team wasn’t missing 7’2 Lew Alcindor so much. “The one I miss is Unseld, his not being with us will hurt, I liked him”. Iba stated that pre training camp and team organization were to be crucial. “I don’t believe we’re weak anywhere. At the right perspective we’re a strong club. … We don’t have the defense yet, but we have finesse and speed. We will have team unity, for that is most important”.

    (1) Dwight Durante in his college years:


    Source: http://gocatawbaindians.com/article.asp?articleID=7822

    See also:
    https://www.salisburypost.com/2017/0...-nc-hall-fame/


    End of part 2 of 3
    Last edited by carlo; 09-04-2018 at 10:44 PM.

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    Pre Olympic tour and exhibition games – Hopes and Concerns

    A summer tour in Europe scheduled by mid June and an exhibition series with pro teams, including the NY Knicks, planned late in September were announced as part of the Olympic team preparation.

    The tour started with two games against Yugoslavia NT in Belgrade and Ljubljana, followed by six games spread in two tournaments in the Soviet Union and two final games in Helsinki against Finland NT.

    The touring team was the same Olympic roster named at the trials, less Jo Jo White and Bill Hosket. From box scores it looks like alternate center Tom Black was with the touring squad. Head coach Iba was missing as well and Tennessee State coach Harold Hunter took Iba’s duties during the tour. According to Haywood biography “The Rise, the Fall, the Recovery”, it appears that at a point during his stay in Moscow Scott left the team to get back home.

    Yugoslavia games, 18-19 June, 1968

    Belgrade: Yugoslavia-USA 87-79 (51-47), Korac 24, Cermak 23 – Silliman 15, Haywood 14, Barrett 11.

    In the first game the US took the host team openly but couldn’t stand the hot scoring of Korac, Cermak, Daneu, Rajkovic and Cosic. “US Olympic team suffered an embarrassing loss to Yugoslavia” (News-Journal, Mansfield, OH, June 19, 1968, p31).


    Ljubljana: Yugoslavia-USA 83-78 (38-37), Korac 26 – Dee & Scott 16, Clawson & Silliman 11.

    In this game the US tried to control the game better defensively, at least for three quarters. Americans took the lead in the second half, but fell behind for good when the locals took a 67-65 lead with 5’ left. A crowd of 6,000 saw the game at Tivoli Sports hall (The Kansas City Times, June 20, 1968, p 58).

    The two losses raised again concerns on US team’s real Olympic chances.


    Minsk (USSR) tournament games, 23-25 June 1968

    US Olympic team secured the round-robin tournament going undefeated against Russian Junior team (preparing for the European Championship later won in Vigo, ESP), Yugoslavia and Russia Senior NT.

    USA-USSR Junior NT 84-69 (36-30), no scores available.


    USA-Yugoslavia 82-75 (38-33), Haywood 23, Clawson 20.

    The US squad took a halftime lead and was not threatened after intermission (Albuquerque Journal, June 24, 1968 p.14).


    USA-USSR Senior NT 84-78, no details on individual scoring available.


    Yugoslavia finished the tournament winless, losing to USSR Senior NT 105-84 and also to USSR Junior team.


    Moscow tournament games, 26-28 June 1968

    US team lost twice to USSR NT and won against Yugoslavia.

    USSR- USA 91-83 (42-36), Polivoda 25, Paulauskas 17 – Scott 19, Fowler 16, Barrett 15, Clawson 14.

    Russians led all the way. Mounting a superior defense Soviet team posted a halfway lead. Scott, Fowler and Clawson played well but the US team as a whole lacked coordination. Game was played before 9,000 cheering fans at Lenin Stadium Sports Palace (The Mercury, Pottstown, PA, June 27, 1968 p 37).


    USA-Yugoslavia 98-84, Scott 18, Tom Black 16.

    US team still smarting from its defeat by Russia crushed Yugoslavia and earned another shot at the powerful Soviets. Americans had to whip Yugoslavia to qualify for the final and did it in convincing style (The Cumberland News, MA, June 28, 1968, p. 17).


    USSR-USA 91-80, Barrett 18, Haywood 17.

    No further details available on this bout.

    Following the Russian tournaments Alexander Gomelsky, the coach of the Soviet team that won two of three exhibition games warned against any illusions. Gomelsky wrote on government newspaper Izvestia:
    "Of course the victory is a big and honorable one. But we should not cherish any illusions, especially if we recall our recent defeat in Minsk. The Americans after checking their qualities in action and we, as well, will draw conclusions. Although their Olympic lineup has already been officially announced, they probably will replace three or four players and reinforce their team".
    (Albuquerque Journal, June 30, 1968, p.43).

    Note: no changes to the US roster were actually performed after the tour, save the addition of the two missing players and, most important probably, coach Iba taking the reins of the team.


    Helsinki games June 30 – July 1, 1968

    USA-Finland 91-87 (50-37), Barrett 25, Saulters 16, Clawson, Haywood 14.

    The US team raced to a 50-37 halftime lead behind the hot shooting of Haywood, who scored all 14 points in the first period. Barrett and Saulters provided the punch to hold off the late-charging Fins (The Cumberland News, MA, July 01, 1968, p.6)


    USA-Finland 82-60, Barrett 19, Clawson 16, Haywood 15.

    No further details other than US team was sparked by Barrett shooting in this game.

    As a whole, the Summer tour proved that the US Olympic team was clearly beatable, at least by Yugoslavia and Soviet Union. Some media recalled that also a touring US squad took several beatings by Russian teams in 1964, then won the Olympic gold, but that squad was far different from the actual Olympic team. The 1968 touring group was virtually the Olympic team, except for a couple of players and the head coach.

    Following an intensive training camp held in Alamosa, Co, in September under Iba’s iron tutorship, three exhibition games were scheduled against pro teams, to be played under international rules. First game was with the Knicks on Sept. 28 in NY, with Cincinnati Royals on Sept. 29 and ABA’s Denver Rockets on Oct. 5. NBA and ABA teams were starting preparation for their 1968-69 season and that was a good chance for the unheralded Olympians to get a try against the pros stars.




    From: http://albersheims.com/September-28,...-ITEM3848.aspx


    US Olympic NT – NY Knickerbockers 65-64 (OT) 56-56

    US: Haywood 17 (+9 reb), Silliman 12, Barrett 11, White 10, Scott 8 - Knicks: Russell 12, Reed, Jackson 10.

    "Olympic cagers surprise Knicks" was a common comment on several newspapers. The Daily News of NY wrote on 09-29-1968 p. 130:

    US Olympic Five Pins 65-64 Upset on Knicks

    U.S. hopes in the forthcoming basketball competition in the Olympic Games at Mexico City got a needed shot in the arm as the Olympians edged the Knicks, 65-64, in overtime last night at the Garden before a disbelieving crowd of 10,029. Tabbed as the weakest U. S. contingent ever to be sent to the games, the hustling Olympians battled the pros at their own game the boards and beat them at it, too. Capt. Mike Silliman, on leave from his artillery outfit and a Knicks' future for the 1970 season after he completes his military stint, showed coach Ed Holzman and GM Eddie Donovan he belongs, and right now. The husky, 6-6 cornerman from West Point provided key buckets and rebounds … Cazzie Russell topped the Knicks' attack with 12 while Willis Reed and Phil Jackson chipped in 10 points each.

    Olympians rallied to tie it in regular time and win in overtime on some clutch shooting by little Mike Barrett, who hit with 37 seconds to go and secured it with a foul with 10 seconds remaining. Still, it was a fine all-round effort by the Olympians particularly Spencer Haywood, Silliman, Barrett and JoJo White. Haywood topped the U.S. Olympians with 17 and was followed by Silliman's 12, Barrett's 11 and 10 by White...

    Cincinnati Royals – US Olympic NT 71-63 (34-30)

    Box scores:

    Royals: Tresvant 12, Robertson and Dinwiddie 11, Dierking 10, T. Van Arsdale 8, J. Lucas and Don Smith 6, Adrian Smith 4, Foster 2, Frink 1, Sims 0, Wesley 0.

    US: Haywood and Scott 12, White 10, Barrett 9, Dee 8, Hosket and Silliman 4, Fowler and Saulters 2, Clawson, King and Spain 0 (Haywood 14 rebounds).

    From the Cincinnati Enquirer, 09-30-1968, p 33:
    Olympians Rugged But Royals Prevail

    This U. S. Olympic basketball team is much more than better than everyone suspected. The Olympic squad, berated as a team that does not have the best available American talent, gave the Cincinnati Royals a good fight most of the way Sunday night before the Royals won the exhibition game, 71-63. "If you look back to 1964, you notice these boys beat us pretty bad," said U. S. coach Henry Iba. The Olympians' loss came after the squad dumped the New York Knicks, 65-64, in overtime Saturday night in New York. "We looked like we were a little dead tonight," said Iba. "We didn't get the ball inside enough. We've been traveling a good deal."

    A crowd of 4,338 fans in Cincinnati Gardens watched the U. S. team race to a 6-0 lead to start the game, which did not catch Cincinnati unaware. "When we heard that New York got beat, we knew we had our hands full," said Royals' coach Ed Jucker, who was very pleased with his team's defense. The Royals mounted a 10-point lead, 32-22, in the first half before the U. S. squad narrowed it to 34-30 at intermission. Cincy's biggest lead during the second half was 14 points with about four minutes to play. "We were trying to run our patterns," said Robertson, "set up our plays to see how they work." Bill Dinwiddle, who has moved into a starting forward's slot, scored nine of his team's 11 points as Cincy broke from a 44-40 score to a 55-44 lead vith 9:18 left. Shortly therafter, Bill was kicked in the thigh and had to leave the game... The Royals got a good game from rookie Don Smith, the team's No. 1 draft choice, who scored six points and had 11 rebounds in 13 minutes of action...

    Jucker thinks the U. S. team will have to work hard in the Olympics. "They've got some terrific jumpers, but I don't know if they have enough of them," said Ed.

    US Olympic NT – Denver Rockets 69-53

    US: Haywood, White 17 – Rockets: Larry Jones 14, Bob Verga 10.

    Not much surfaced out of this last game, other than "The U.S. cagers were in command nearly the whole game, played before about 4,500 fans",

    US Olympic team starting five in these exhibition games had Scott and Silliman at forwards, Haywood center, White and Fowler at guards (from The Gastonia Gazette 10-06-1968, p.12).


    On the eve of the Olympic Games The Pittsburgh Press (10-06-1968, p 77) titled “’Unknowns’ Carry US Floor Hopes” and some critics dubbed the US team “Athletes Anonymous” due to the many superstars missing. Coach Iba didn’t care and praised his team as an “exceptional group of ballplayers…just as good as the gold medal-winning 1964 team”. However, Iba admitted that his squad would have a lot of strong teams to face and defending the unbeaten Olympic record would have been a tough challenge.

    Interestingly, 6’10 alternate Tom Black stayed with the official team making the trip to Mexico City, to fill the gap in case of last moment injury of one of the only two bigs.
    (The Purdue Exponent, Oct 16, p. 16, and http://www.apbr.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=4690).

    As a matter of facts, entering the Olympics the US team found itself an underdog for the first time (1). Soviet Union, with a distinct advantage in height, was felt as the true favorite for the gold. But the tournament semifinal proved to be the real game-changer as “giant-killer” Yugoslavia upset the mighty Soviets and replaced them in the Olympic final with USA. The unheralded US team, already a clear winner of Yugoslavia in the first round and after some convincing victories (Italy, Brazil) became the favorite for the gold.

    The rest is history. US squad didn’t disappoint and won the gold after a powerful rush in the opening minutes of the 2nd half, led by Spencer Haywood and Jo Jo White. After his outstanding performance at the Olympics former Juco player Haywood was acknowledged in the US and internationally as a new superstar, and famed Yugoslav coach Ranko Zeravica defined him “the best amateur player I have ever seen” (The Times Record, Oct 26, 1968, p.13).

    Coach Iba, who made a strong winning unit off a bunch of “unknowns” shrugging off any criticisms “proved the real hero in Olympics” (Alton Evening Telegraph, Oct 26, 1968, p. 17).




    (1) Recommended read: The Sporting News, Oct. 26, 1968, page 41, "US Cage Prestige at Stake in Olympics" by Larry Bortstein.
    Last edited by carlo; 09-12-2018 at 07:05 PM.

  4. #4
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    Good on Kareem for refusing to play

  5. #5
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    Default USA in Moscow Last game

    USSR-USA 91-80, Barrett 18, Haywood 17.
    No further details available on this bout.
    Min Points
    Barrett 38 20
    Fowler 28 7
    Clawson 25 2
    Dee 5 2
    Haywood 38 18
    Scott 18 7
    Spain 18 9
    Silliman 30 15

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