I'm mad that we lost in '88, too. Basketball is America's game. This is ours. We've been getting whipped because the team we've been sending is a joke. The world will see this year. Our pros will be there, and we'll take out all of our frustration for what happened in '72.
I'm still pissed at Dwight Jones for getting thrown out of the game. Know what he said to me one time? He said he doesn't want the silver for himself, but he wants it to show his kids. Man, just use a book or a film to show your kids you were in it—you don't need no medal. I told my son, "You do not accept that silver medal when I'm dead and gone. Your dad deserved the gold, don't you ever take no silver." Some of the guys on that team are punking out on me, they're punking out. But it's got to be unanimous, and they won't get me. I'll always vote no.
There are several intriguing historical footnotes to that scarred 1972 Olympic basketball final. The Brazilian referee, Righetto, who at first refused Jones's order to put time back on the clock for the Soviets, never officiated in an international game again. The Bulgarian referee, Arabadjan, left his country in the '80s and moved to New York City. "That bastard?" cries Bob Paul, press chief of the '72 U.S. Olympic team. "We let him in? My god, we forgive everybody!"
Belov, who scored the winning basket for the Soviets, died in 1978 at the age of 26, supposedly of a heart attack—although rumors persist that he was involved in smuggling and that his death was not from natural causes. Hank Iba, who coached his final game that night in Munich, lives on in Stillwater, Okla., where he is designing a new motion-and-screening offense at the age of 87.
There is one other curious footnote. Of the 12 American players on that team, 10 claim that they still vote no to the silver medals today. The reality is that except for one or two players who didn't turn in their votes in 1982 and 1986, only three voted no to accepting the medals in the first vote, and only two voted no the second time, according to sources at USA Basketball. Could it be that roughly half of the team that made its stand for honesty and integrity in 1972 is...fibbing?