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Untarnished Gold : Controversy? What Controversy? Soviets Still Feel They Deserved Basketball Victory in 1972

BARCELONA 1992 OLYMPICS: 7 Days to the Games


Amid the chaos, the referees cleared the court and ordered the Soviets to inbound the ball a second time. The pass again was deflected as the buzzer sounded, and the U.S. players joined their fans in the merriment.

It was at that point that the late Robert Jones, FIBA's secretary general, intervened. Although he was not authorized by his federation's rules to participate in the officiating of a game, he ruled that the Soviets should be allowed the timeout that they had requested, and that three seconds should be restored to the clock.

The U.S. players see the rest--the pass by Edeshko, the off-balance attempt of defenders Kevin Joyce and Bob Forbes to intercept, the Belov catch and layup--in their nightmares.

U.S. officials filed an official protest, claiming that the Soviets had not called for a timeout at the proper time, but, in interviews with reporter Pinchuk for the book, "USSR-USA Sports Encounters," that was denied by Kondrashin and Bashkin.

Bashkin: "When Sako made the foul (on Collins), Kondrashin asked for a timeout. There was a long lead to the officials' table--you pressed the button and a lamp lit up on the table. He pressed the button and got up from the bench."

Pinchuk: "Perhaps the system was not working."

Kondrashin: "It worked all right! When I was in Geneva recently, I saw a color film of the match. The lamp is burning and the (German game officials) are nodding their heads. . . ."

FIBA's jury of appeals, meeting the day after the game, agreed with the Soviets, voting, 3-2, that the result should stand. U.S. officials made much of the fact that the three votes in favor of the Soviets came from representatives of communist countries, ignoring Jones being British.

In an interview a few years before his death, Jones said that he was as shocked as everyone else at Munich when the Soviets scored and admitted that he might have overstepped his authority, but he insisted that the decision to award them the timeout and the three seconds was correct.

Edelman, the Soviet sports historian, said that he believes Kondrashin's version for two reasons.

"I don't think he would have made that mistake," Edelman said during a recent interview at his home in Los Angeles. "He had the reputation of being an extremely good bench coach because of his play-calling, substituting and use of timeouts, and he was extremely experienced with international rules, because those were the rules they used in the Soviet Union.

"Also, he knew that he had to have the timeout to get Edeshko into the game. Edeshko had made two passes from the sideline in game-ending situations earlier in the year against touring American teams. He also had beaten Kondrashin's team (Spartak Leningrad) two years earlier in a (Soviet league) playoff game with the same pass he made at Munich. Kondrashin didn't forget.

"Whatever anyone wants to say about those last three seconds, it was a fantastic athletic play."

Edeshko said that the "real drama" began after Belov scored, while the Soviets waited for FIBA's decision the next morning on whether the game should be replayed.

"Before the game, we prepared heaps of cold beer, German sausages and other snacks to celebrate our success whether we won or lost," he said. "But, there we were, spending a sleepless night in front of all that cold beer and snacks, shattered and exhausted.

"In the morning, our coach gathered us together and said, with a straight face, 'Well, guys, there is going to be a replay . . . in 1976 in Montreal.' Boy, did we get at that beer!"

Postscript: There was no rematch in 1976 because the Soviets, for the second time in eight years, lost to the Yugoslavs in the semifinals. Because of the U.S. boycott in 1980 and the Soviet boycott in 1984, the United States and the Soviet Union did not meet again until the 1988 Summer Olympics at Seoul, where Gomelski, back in favor, coached the Soviets to an 82-76 semifinal victory en route to another gold medal.

Times staff writer Randy Harvey wrote this story from Barcelona, special correspondent Sergei L. Loiko reported from Moscow.

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