SI Vault
Edited by Robert W. Creamer
September 25, 1972
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September 25, 1972


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The controversial American defeat in Olympic basketball has sent shock waves back and forth across the country. Initial resentment was directed at the way the U.S. was jobbed by Olympic officials, who permitted the Russians to put the ball in play three different times after only three seconds were left to play. But this has been replaced in some areas by criticism of the American coaching, specifically the slow, ball-control style the Olympians were instructed to play by the 68-year-old Henry Iba, long-time coach at Oklahoma State who has directed U.S. basketball fortunes in three successive Olympics.

Lefty Driesell, coach at the University of Maryland and a controversial figure himself, said bluntly, "We should beat the Russians by 20 points. The game we played is not representative of American basketball. We don't play that slowdown game anymore. Our game is fast-break. John Wooden or Dean Smith could have taken any college team in the Top Ten and whipped the Russians by 20 or 25 points."

Less volatile critics echoed Driesell's remarks. One said, "I contend that Henry Iba's coaching was anachronistic, a point that Bill Russell made circumspectly on TV at the time. I have known Iba for 30 years and have always liked him, but in recent years he has struck me as something of a reactionary in his concept of basketball. He has never been able to break out of his own rigid and old-fashioned concept. Three or four years ago he said, 'Defense was never intended to be played all over the court.' Yet playing it all over the court is one of the chief factors in the success of John Wooden at UCLA. As Russell implied, Olympic players were prisoners of Iba's methodical style and were hardly given a chance to express their individual abilities. The only reason we finally caught the Russians in that last game was because Doug Collins broke from Iba's concept of offense and drove half the length of the court for the basket. But if he had done that earlier, Iba would probably have benched him."


The star-crossed love affair between the Orange Bowl and Poly-Turf goes on. You will recall the chagrin last season when the original synthetic turf became faded and powdery and slippery. American Biltrite, the manufacturer, honoring its guarantee, promised a new, improved version. Well, the new rug has been installed and it looks fine, but the football teams that play on it—the University of Miami and the Miami Dolphins—are complaining again. The old surface, for all its slipperiness in dry weather, was excellent in rain. The new is sensational dry but whoopsy when wet. The footballers claim that if it rains as much as six hours before a game, the field is still slick and juicy at kickoff.

American Biltrite, which by now must wish it had never heard of the Orange Bowl, says, "If there is a problem, we certainly want to pinpoint the reason for it. We're not going to run away from the situation. We'll continue to stand behind the product."


It sounded like a novel and possibly rewarding concept when General Manager Charlie Blaney of the Albuquerque Dukes, easternmost team in the Pacific Coast League, announced early this year that one of his promotional stunts for the 1972 season would be—hey, hey, step a little closer—No Promotion Night. Charlie is an ingenious hustler, hyping up interest in baseball with all sorts of extraneous gimmicks, most of which work. Reliable old Bat Night, at which fans were given Little League bats, drew 3,934. Hot Dog Night (eat all the free franks you want) brought 3,618. Ten-Cent Beer night attracted 3,469. A culture night, when Blaney somehow got the Albuquerque Symphony to come out and perform, had 3,084.

After all this, No Promotion Night, featuring nothing but baseball, seemed a refreshing departure, something the real fan would relish. Result? Zilch. Only 1,935 purists showed up. Nor did Blaney use any hype later in the season when his club met Eugene in a PCL pennant playoff. Bill Veeck, whose wisdom has never been questioned, says you use gimmicks only when your team is losing. When it's winning, baseball draws the fans. Zilch for Veeck, too. This time the crowd was only 1,965.

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