For 1972 U.S. team, no silver lining
8/9/2012, 5:49 p.m.
LONDON -- There were no Olympic warm-up games played in Munich to commemorate the milestone, no throwback uniforms printed up for the 2012 squad to pay homage and no new documentaries commissioned by NBA TV to re-tell the story amid great publicity and pride.
The 40th anniversary of the U.S. men's Olympic basketball team and its infamous Cold War gold-medal game again the Soviet Union, up until the last week or so, had been passing rather quietly.
In stark contrast to what's seemingly been a yearlong tribute to the Dream Team, as it celebrates the two decades that have passed since it changed the face of international basketball at the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona, members of the 1972 team who to this day remain convinced they were cheated and refuse to collect their silver medals get only occasional notice. That will naturally change in a major way if the current squad of NBA All-Stars representing the United States ends up playing Russia in Sunday's gold-medal game -- which stunningly is a possibility after the Russians' unexpected advancement to the semifinals against Spain -- but '72 hoopla has been on the scarce side so far in 2012.
"I do think it's been pushed to the rear," says Johnny Bach, now 88, who served as an assistant coach to the legendary Henry Iba on the '72 U.S. squad. "I don't think the International Olympic Committee ever wanted to deal with it."
It was just last month that the 2012ers went to Spain, played two exhibition games in Catalunya to honor the original Dreamers' groundbreaking trip there and even sported the same jerseys Michael, Magic and Larry wore in '92, adorned with a special gold "CD" square above the heart to the honor the memory of late coach Chuck Daly. All that's currently planned for the Boys of '72, for certain, is the first get-together of its kind later this month in Kentucky that's scheduled to be attended by all 12 players on the roster.
Otherwise? An Illinois lawyer's one-man crusade to try to convince the IOC and/or basketball's world governing body (FIBA) to sanction a new hearing that could theoretically still lead to duplicate gold medals for the Americans is pretty much the extent of the movement & although neither the IOC nor FIBA has yet to show any interest in considering the request. There's also a new book, "Stolen Glory," that the lawyer in question, Donald "Taps" Gallagher, has co-written with Mike Brewster to chronicle what happened on Sept. 10, 1972, and highlight their cause.
"Forty years later," Gallagher says, "it's still the biggest [Olympic] farce of all time."
Forty years later, 12 silver medals sit locked up and unclaimed, either in a storage room in the Olympic museum in Lausanne, Switzerland, or a basement in Munich, depending on which fable you believe.
Forty years later, instead of being remembered for what might have been the two most clutch free throws in the annals of basketball, Doug Collins is spending his summer away from the Philadelphia 76ers' bench calling Team USA's games for NBC Sports. This keeps him close to his son, Chris -- one of Mike Krzyzewski's trusted Team USA assistants -- but also puts him in position to have to relive a good bit of the torment that followed the free throws that gave the young American amateurs a 50-49 lead with three fateful seconds to go against a team of seasoned Soviet pros.