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YouTube Gold: Doug Collins On The 1972 Olympic Basketball Finals

Still a disgrace. The game, not Collins.

USA vs Soviet Union, 1972 Summer Olympics
Doug Collins in the 1972 Olympics finals

It’s hard to get this in 2022, but in 1972, Doug Collins was something of a revolutionary.

Why? Because he was a 6-6 guard. There weren’t too many of those in 1972. Generally speaking, in that era, if you were 6-6, you were slotted as a small forward. But there were some guys around that size who were power players. Wes Unseld played center for a long time at 6-7.

Collins was also - still is - rail thin.

In 1972, he was on the US Olympic team and that was a strange team in many ways.

A lot of guys either chose not to go or weren't invited. Bill Walton passed. Bob McAdoo wasn't there. Ernie DiGregorio and Marvin Barnes weren’t on the team either, though in Barnes’s case, that might have been a plus.

David Thompson was still a freshman and unlikely to have been invited.

But there was some solid talent on the team, including Collins. Unfortunately, coach Hank Iba preferred a slow, pattern style right out of the 1940s and it probably played into the Soviet hands in the gold medal game, which is still controversial.

In what should have been the closing seconds, Collins stole the ball and took off for a layup. He was hit hard and later said he was seeing double when he went to the foul line. But he hit both to put the US up 50-49.

After that came the weirdness with the Soviets getting three inbound attempts the free throws. On one of them, Renato William Jones, head of FIBA, actually came down to the scorers table and ordered the clock to be reset to three seconds. It turned out that he had not gotten along very well with USA Basketball and some felt there was a bit of payback there, perhaps supported by this quote which came later: “The Americans have to learn how to lose, even when they think they are right.”

The US team, correctly recognizing that they had been royally screwed, have never accepted the silver medals. Here’s more on the controversy.

Of course, all of this is trivial when you think about the terrorist attack that saw several Israelis die. Tom Burleson talked about being so close to the atrocity and broke down sobbing. It’s a hard video to watch, even now.

Doug’s son Chris, who of course went to Duke, plays a nice role at the end of this story.