Last 3 seconds:
Herbert Mols Report
THREE SECONDS-To be or not to Be
A REPORT OF THE USA VS. USSR BASKETBALL GAME AT THE MUNICH OLYMPICS-1972
by Herbert J. Mols
prepared for the
Players, coaches, managers and trainer of the team
Olympic Basketball Committee
U. S. Olympic Committee
and for the following, who contributed personnel and services during the
summer of 1972 toward the development of the USA team and who therefore
shared in our experience and to whom we are eternally grateful
AIR FORCE ACADEMY
PEARL HARBOR NAVAL STATION
KANZOHE MARINE AIR STATION
Professional players and promoters of Olympic Fund games at Dayton, Louisville
Los Angeles, Greensboro & Buffalo
McGRAW KASERN - Munich
"we passed your way and you became a part of us"
XX O L Y M P I C B A S K E T B A L L — 1972
Munich, West Germany
UNITED STATES of AMERICA (U S A) vs. UNION SOVIET SOCIALIST REPBLIC (U R S)
P R O L O G U E
This introduction of the circumstances covering the final game of the XXth Olympiad in Munich begins at thirty minutes before midnight on the 9th of September. WHY? This is but the first of a great many queries which obtain in a basketball game whose finish will rank with the wierdest in history. This portion of the report will cover 39 minutes and 57 seconds as verified by personal notes, by our scorekeeper Bob Wonder, the official scoring report, a videotape of the game by ABC, taped by Tex Winter and loaned to us for the purposes of this report only, and finally, the official tape of the final portion of the game by ABC as provided to the U. S. Olympic Committee. This filmed report is available to anyone interested in arriving at a fair and sportsmanlike judgment of the contest.
The U S A entered this tournament victorious in 7 straight Olympiads and undefeated in 55 games. They had won 8 straight games here including the semi-final victory over Italy wherein, quoting sportscaster Bill Russell, "they had played the best defense of any amateur team I've ever seen." Throughout the final contest he persisted in accolades being showered upon this young squad for its defensive play, in commending the coaching staff for their preparation, in praising the scouting reports, and finally the manner in which the 12 individual stars jelled into a team effort, maturing and poised in a way H necessary to match the starters of the USSR squad which had 2-28 year—olds, 2-27 year olds and a 21 year old. The USA barely averaged 21. Russell noted that our offense was below par, that we were taking poor percentage shots, shots off balance, shots from outside our range, but most of all, we were getting no offensive rebounds and a great deal of credit belonged to the defensive efforts of our opponents. They did apply pressure and they did block out extremely well.
Both teams started out tight and missed their first shots. In fact the USSR had a 5-0 lead before Dwight Jones made a free throw and 4 minutes were gone before Ed Ratleff broke the cover from the field and we trailed 3-7. A surprize starter, Sakandelidze, had 2 free throws and 2 buckets at this time. 12 of the next 14 points for the Soviets came from the long range bombing of Sergei Belov as he led his team to a 26-21 halftime margin. Tom Henderson and Jim Brewer had 6 apiece to keep us in the ballgame. We had our poorest field percentage of 29 while the USSR hit for 42%. At the 8:39 minute left mark we trailed 21-11, our greatest deficit which was duplicated at the 10 minute mark of the second half when the score read 38—28.
In the first 8 minutes of the second half the defense still shone and both teams traded baskets and USSR still prevailed 34-28 when we suffered a key misfortune. An errant shot bounced off the glass and was gathered in by Dwight Jones (9) after which Mishako Korkia (11) attempted to tie up the ball albeit unsuccessful. Both men tried for the ball, stumbled and separated and while they squared off, NO blows were struck, nor were they within feet of each other. The officials however acted with extra—sensitive dispatch to eject both players. From the USA standpoint, our #1 scorer and #2 rebounder was out, a much more serious loss. On the ensuing jump ball, Jim Brewer went high for the tap, was undercut and landed on his head. While he played for several more minutes, he was finally substituted for when it was learned that he remembered nothing. Thus our #1 rebounder departed the scene. 6:07 remained and we trailed 44-36. When Serg Belov scored a basket, it was his 20th and final point(high for the game) and it was also the final field—score for USSR. Meanwhile the tough USA defense persisted and a Forbes fielder was followed by two from Kevin Joyce and it was 44-42 USSR. 3:36 remained. Paulauskaskas twice fouled and made 3 of 4 as the game went under 3 minutes, and all fouls are shot (or waived, with possession retained at midcourt).
Once more it was Joyce from the side and when Collins was fouled and dropped both the score was again narrowed to one, 47-46 with 1:50 to go. The USSR moved cautiously when Joyce reaching in behind was called on Sakandalidze who made his first and when the second missed, it was Forbes who made a great save to prevent the ball going over the end line and batted it to Joyce. On the ensuing shot, a completely screened official comes from under the basket to call the disqualifying foul on Mike Bantom, our #3 rebounder. Bantom had started a jump for the rebound but the ball bounced to the foul line. His slight contact had no effect and the foul was a surprise to Zharmukhamedov, but even more so to Serg Belov who caught the rebound out at the foul line. After a time-out, the game resumed with Belov to the line. When Joyce called attention to this flagrant switch, the official Arabadjan was again consulted and he allowed Belov to shoot. The first was missed but the second made with :53 seconds on the clock. This time Jim Forbes took his jumper from the top of the circle and once again we were within one point. Again the Soviets moved the ball with care and 40 seconds to go. Paulauskas dribbled under the basket to the opposite side, passed out to Sakandalidze and back to Paulauskas and in to Alex Belov in the 3 second area and under the basket. He put the ball on the floor and attempted to jump for a try but was first blocked by Forbes and then had the ball tapped away by McMillen to the side where he (Belov) recovered and fired deep to Sakandalidze at midcourt. Both Collins and Henderson converged on the ball, it was batted and then recovered by Collins who then went full speed across midcourt for the bucket. He was off the side of the foul line and outside the 3 second area when he took off for his layup. At the same time Sakandalidze (#6) dove for and undercut #5, driving him into the basket supports with his head under the mats. The lead official Righetto was on top of the play and immediately called the foul and obtained the raised hand of #6. He ignored the floored Collins and neither official called the violation when Alex Belov's hand hit the basket while the ball was rolling around the rim. 3 seconds was on the clock!!!
ACT ONE !! THE FINAL THREE SECONDS OF THE OFFICIAL GAME !!!!!
After being administered by the first aid staff and our trainer, Collins, somewhat wobbly and visibly shaken, walked about and made his way to the free throw line. Referee Righetto handed Collins the ball and he made the first shot to tie the score at 49-49. Again he was handed the ball and once more it went in. Score USA 50-49. While in the act of shooting the second time, a horn sounded, but Righetto rightfully ignored the sound although he first turned to the table and then to the foul shot. As quickly as the free throw was made and the ball went through the net, Zharmukhamedov caught the ball, took 2 steps across the line, whirled and threw the ball in bounds to Berg Belov who still stood at the #3 spot along the free throw lane. At the instant of the successful throw, the official at the end line, Arabadjan approved of this action and waved the ball in play. Belov caught the ball, turned and dribbled toward the mid court and the side line nearest the table where he simultaneously charged into Collins as Righetto was blowing his whistle to stop play. One second showed on the clock.
WHY was the game stopped?? Obviously a commotion occurred along the sideline. BY WHOM?? Assistant coach Bashkin and players from the Soviet bench!! For what purpose?? To call for a time-out!! BUT the ball was alive and the clock was running. CLEARLY--two seconds elapsed. The right of the referee to blow the whistle and stop the game had to be for a reason. The reason must be justified by the rule book. Specifically, Art. 75 does not permit a coach "to leave his place to follow action on the court" and Art. 41 states that "a request for a charged time-out be made (by sounding his signal) as soon as the ball is dead and the game watch stopped." The officials, after noting the commotion, ordered all members of both teams back to their respective benches. Cameramen were ordered from the sideline. Mr. R. William Jones has now appeared in front of the scoring table and addresses the Soviet coaches. He alone now signals with 3 fingers raised aloft. However, when referee Righetto is addressed along the sideline by USA player Henderson with one finger pointed to scoreboard on end wall he visually replies by raising one finger aloft. The American players accept this decision and take their places on the court. While NO time-out has been granted according to the score sheet, the Soviet team were in consultation all this time along the courtside with their coaches. As Righetto returns toward midcourt, Arabadjan takes the ball to the end court line again and hands the ball to #9, Edeshko, who throws the ball the length of the court where it is tapped by Alex Belov as he jumps in the 3 second area. The ball caroms off the backboard back onto the court and toward mid-court and the official end of the game is signalled by the horn. It must be noted that for unknown reasons at the moment that Edeshko took the ball, that the video- tape replay shows the clock indicating "50" seconds to play. Also, from the moment that Belov touched the ball on the court to the moment when the horn sounded was easily another THREE SECONDS... The game has ended with the USA the victors 50-49.
While players jump in jubilation, I have proceeded to the scorers' table. The timer indicates that "someone" had tampered with the clock and that their was no "automatic" signal to end the game but that he manually blew the horn, admittedly beyond that required "one second" which he had anticipated, and probably as long as "three seconds." At this same time Peter Schliessel, of the organizing committee, closely followed by R. WM. Jones, emerged from behind the scoring table and advanced on me with hands raised announcing that "3 seconds remain." They had no answer to my question of "why?" and I reported to Mr. Iba and we cleared the floor, The officials were notified, likewise with no reason. They now ordered us to play again. TO THIS DAY, THERE IS NO LEGAL REASON TO PLAY !!!!
ACT TWO!! THE EXTRA, ILLEGAL AND UNNECESSARY THREE SECONDS
R. William Jones has notified the floor officials that three seconds remain. The official Arabadjan once again takes the ball to the end line. Here he admonishes USA player McMillen to stay clear of the end line by waving his hand vertically. McMillen's action is to retreat toward midcourt.
The clock has been reset to three seconds. The official again hands the ball to Edeshko who steps forward, and with his left foot clearly ON the line, he sidearms a pass which is caught in the 3 second area directly in front of the basket. He comes to the floor, gains his balance and jumps to complete a two hand layup. The two Americans who were guarding Belov flew in opposite directions to the floor as the catch was made. The lead official was at midcourt when the ball was thrown and only part way to the play when the ball was caught. The film also shows Belov into the 3 second area as the ball left Edeshko's hand and thus subject to the 3 second rule.
ACT THREE!! The filing of the PROTEST by the USA.
Our manager, W. K. Summers,was immediately advised on the procedure for a protest. Given the facts, he drew up the written protest and presented it to the President of the Technical Committee, R. William Jones. Mr. Jones advised Mr. Summers that the deposit of money was not important at the moment and that he could be trusted. Mr. Summers assured Mr. Jones that the money was available on call.
The announcement was made that the award ceremonies were postponed. Mr. Jones advised me, at least an hour later, that the Technical Committee had waived action on the protest and that it was being moved along to the Jury of Appeal. They would take action as soon as they were assembled. Replacements were named for absentees. Dr. Hepp was named President in place of Abdel Wahby even though he was not on the list of members or substitutes. (This is violation of RULE 3.7.2 PROTESTS since Hungary was not in tourney). FACTS & FACTORS for consideration between the end of the game and the report of the Jury of Appeal:
OFFICIAL SCORE SHEET: After every other game in which USA participated, our Captain and the officials signed the sheet and a copy was delivered to me. Our Captain was advised not to sign the score sheet, except to indicate "PROTEST". We were informed that the official, Righetto, likewise signed with his signature "under protest". When I inquired of the USA copy, we were shown the sheet with the signatures in protest but were advised that copies would be made and presented to us. WE NEVER AGAIN SAW THE SCORESHEET!
LONGINES: Within the hour after the end of the game, and after being approached twice during this period, we finally made contact with the technician of Longines, charged with the proper working of the time clock. It was he who finally cleared up the mystery of why the clock was in the process of being changed from three (:03) seconds and was actually at fifty (:50) when the ball was put in play from the end line,(as described on page 5, line 15.) He was ordered by Edmond Bigot, FIBA's technical delegate at the game and R. William Jones, FIBA secretary General, to return the clock to three (:03) seconds. He was in the process of obeying this order when the official Arabadjan put the ball in play at the end of the court for the second time, with the understanding that one (:01) remained to play.
The technician confirmed that the horn to end the game had to be operated manually by the timekeeper since NO AUTOMATIC SIGNAL could operate while he was changing the clock. He agreed that once the ball touched the player on the court, at least 2-3 seconds elapsed prior to the game-ending horn. He emphasized that there was nothing deficient in the clock operation and that "one second was all that legally remained."
TABLE CREW OF SCORKEEPER TIMEKEEPERS and COORDINATOR: (The official report of this crew is attached and a part of this report.) As noted earlier, I approached timekeeper Baumert at the end of the 40 minute game, and again at the completion of the "illegal three second period." He reported that he was completely unaware of any rules violation at the desk and that, in his judgment, the final three seconds were extra and illegal. He, and others at the table, were now aware of the fact that R. William Jones and Bigot had interrupted the automatic mechanism of the clock. But they all emphasized that they had exchanged the hand signal of one finger, meaning that the question of the officials, and their answer, in sign language, was ONE SECOND TO PLAY!(page 4, line 17) The timekeeper reviewed what had occurred after Collins had made the first free throw with 3 seconds to play. "A light appeared which indicated a request for time-out from the Soviet Coach. Without visually checking the status of the ball on the court, he hurriedly reached for and blew the horn to call attention of the referee of this request." (Art. 41-RULES). However, the referee had already handed the ball to the USA player, Collins, (38 (b)) which made the ball "alive" and thus NO TIME-OUT COULD BE HONORED! It was accordingly the timekeeper's unintentional errors, but the referee heard and correctly ignored the horn! (Art. 41, 37, 38.) As stated on page 4, after the successful free throws the Russian caught the ball, stepped out-of-bounds and put the ball in play, with both officials on the floor indicating that the ball was still alive and in play. When the referee stopped the game, one second was on the clock. When put in play again, the timekeeper recalled that the automatic timer did not function, why he did not know, and thus he pushed the horn manually, and agreed that several seconds had elapsed. This was the moment which he and the others at the table regarded as the TRUE end of the game.
Several hours later, the scorekeepers were interviewed by the Jury of Appeal and declared that a farce had been effected in that there was NO interrogation of the occurrences in the three seconds following Collins' free throws, but only regarding the time elapse in the unlawful, extra three seconds. Did the Russian shoot within 3 seconds?? Of course!!
The Officials. RULE 4 indicates the province of the referee, umpire and their assistants at the table. THEY ALONE CONTROL THE BASKETBALL GAME! They were selected by the Technical Committee and were thus honored to work this final game. There was a language barrier which they overcame with signals. It has been shown in the commentary of the game that a number of occasions arose in which their judgment could be questioned. It has even been proven by the miracle of film and videotape that by re-run, slow motion and stop action, that their judgments, on the spot and in the heat of the contest, were in error. Nonetheless, both teams had accepted their handling of the game, i. e. right up to the final three seconds. If any error can be charged to the referee or umpire in this stage, it has to be that they were misled by a disturbance on the court, caused ONLY by the assistant coach Bashkin and other Soviet players, the result of which was a whistle by the referee to halt play with one second remaining. The RULEs #75 & #74 cover the issue which calls for a technical foul, based at least on the fact that the offender gained an unfair advantage. Likewise, the request for time-out at this time, when the ball was alive and the clock running, is a technical violation. In spite of this ignoring of a technical foul, the major fact to be considered is that the OFFICIALS, BOTH THOSE ON THE COURT AND THOSE AT THE TABIE, AGREED THAT "ONE" SECOND REMAINED IN THE game!!!
On Sunday, at 1 PM, about an hour prior to the report by the Jury, we were able to interrogate Renato Righetto and his interpreter for one purpose ONLY. We asked and he willingly and forthrightly replied to each question which reviewed each act succeeding Collins' free throws. Our only intent was to follow, step by step, what his recollection was of this time period. We submit that he acted in an extremely fair and unbiased manner in order to achieve a worthy result in this game. He repeated that, in conclusion, the extra three seconds was NOT his decision, and was illegal, and that he so reported to the Jury. THIS WAS, at least, HIS INTENTION!!
SECRETARY GENERAL OF F. l. B. A., hr. R. William Jones. No report of this game can be complete without an accounting of the influence of this individual and his actions of this final day. WE KNOW that he told LONGINES to change the clock, fronted by Edmond Bigot. WE KNON that he did this behind the score table. WE p KNOW that he followed Peter Schliesser from behind to in front of the table, at the end of the legal game, to confront me with the ORDER to resume the game and to play ANOTHER three seconds. WE KNOW that he ignored all requests to answer to our question of "WHY?"' An hour later, still seeking an answer, Mr. Jones entered a room behind the gymnasium, and ordered me, and the Soviet interpreter, with whom I was conversing, to depart. Apparently the Jury of A Appeal was awaiting assemly instructions here. This was the first moment that I learned the Mr. Jones and his technical committee were declining action on the protest and were passing the matter along to the Jury. It is a known fact that Mr. Jones and his organizing committee members were present at the deliberations of the Jury. WHY? If he was present, why could not the USA and the USSR delegations be accorded the courtesy of attending the hearing? At noon of the following day, while awaiting the report of the Jury, we heard Mr. Jones address newsmen that he had nothing to do with the "extra three seconds" and the re-setting of the clock. I advised him of the errors of his statement and repeated the version of the incident at the game where he notified me of the additional three seconds order. This was repeated on television in his presence, with no rebuttal.
It must be emphatically emphasized that the facts of this incident which have been presented are not the jaundiced or prejudiced memories of a player, official or spectator at the game. It is certainly true that such memories might become distorted with the passage of time. In my own case, I was privileged to view several times the final minutes of the game on ABC videotape, Sunday afternoon, Sept. 10, and this certainly enforced and clarified some of the impressions formed 12 hours previous.
However, several months have now elapsed and I now have been able to review not only the final minutes of the game but the entire tape of the game which came over ABC that day. Once again, these films bring forth each incident in completely clear focus. The facts are there for all to see. Each frame of film has been run and rerun, slowed down and backed up, until there can be no distortion or misreading of the events as they occurred and have been herein presented. It is for anyone and everyone to verify.
It has been part of my research to confer with the USA players and coaches, not only in those last two days in Munich, but since, up to and including December 1972, and it is true that we all harbored some slight deviations of the true action. So it should not be too alarming that Mr. Jones (and the members of the Jury of Appeal) could attend the ABC studios in Munich, observe the videotape as courteously provided the morning of the game, and to then prepare a two page memorandum of what was his judgment. This memo is a part of our appendix. Suffice it to say that his statements are not substantiated by the film. They are actually contradicted by film. Yet we are led to believe that the view of Mr. Jones was so superior to that of the assigned officials of the game that he felt justified to enter the scene, first at the table of the Longines' technician, and shortly thereafter to the front of the scorers' table, in order to further his own version of the situation and to introduce an alteration of the result which was completely inaccurate and contrary to RULE 4 and the principles of officiat- ing of any basketball game in the world.
We now reply to his 2 page memorandum (PRESS RELEASE) of September 15, from Munchen.
(b) Explained earlier by the TIMER, the signal from the Soviet coach was received too late and he acted upon instinct to reach for and press the horn. Since the referee ignored the horn, the time-out was not granted.
(c) This paragraph is in error and aims to deceive. As noted on page 4, line 9, the free throw was made and the Soviet put the ball in play. The umpire did not move at all while this was occurring but he certainly waved his arm to indicate that the ball was in play and that the game should continue. Contrary to Mr. Jones' release, it was the amount of time required to pass in the ball from #7 to #10 who then dribbled to mid-court, before the referee gave his whistle to stop the play, and to investigate the commotion. The referee DENIED, first at the time of the termination of the game, and again at noon of the next day, that he indicated 3 seconds remained to be played. As shown on the film, he never spoke with personnel at the table,except to indicate "ONE" for one second, which was the response from the table officials. In regard to the public address announcement, NO ONE at the USA bench heard this announcement. In this scene of utter confusion, it has been shown that only Mr. Jones has decried the EXTRA THREE SECONDS, and it must be emphasized that EACH BENCH, BOTH THE USA AND USSR, deserved the courtesy of this announcement. The P. A. announcer has merely compounded the lie!
d) We agree that the ball being put in play from the end line was another error and this was agreed upon by the referee. However, the details on page 5 explain that there was no automatic horn signal, since the clock was being reset upon orders from Jones. Haw could the timekeeper neglect to re-set a clock which has been taken from his control?? This timekeeper reported that he had to manually push the horn to end the game which took several seconds. NOT ONE SECOND, as Jones reports!! The rest of this report takes place after the game is legally over, but we make these corrections.
f) The fact of putting the ball in play at end line does NOT clearly show that it was a repetition of the original play. This is the 3rd time!!
g) It was player #9, not #10 as Jones says. Actually, the umpire was at the end line and did not see #9 step on the line although it was right there. The referee was at midcourt and could not discern the alleged contact under the basket when Alex Belov caught the ball.
The referee also did not count the 3 second violation of Belov, which 3 second count started when Edeshko was handed the ball out-of-bounds, not when he caught it. We merely mention these violations of the rules to show what can occur under the stress and tension of this game. We have commended these working officials for their excellent performance under the conditions and to REPEAT that they did not ORDER these extra three seconds.
h) The official score sheet showed the Referee signed, but with PROTEST. We forbade the USA captain to sign since he was aware of our PROTEST.
REPORT OF THE JURY OF APPEAL:
A press conference was held in the Press Room of the Basketball Hall after 2 PM on Sunday, Sept, 10. The Chairman introduced Ferenc Hepp who gave the announcements the USA protest was denied. When the meeting was opened for questioning, we proceeded to take Mr. Hepp through the final seconds of the basketball game and to request explanations of their verdict. It was apparent to all of those present, including international press representatives, that the Jury had not made an exhaustive research into the matters. The table officials representative, Hans Tenschert, then appeared with a statement deploring the procedure of interrogation and openly disputing the decision. This was also confirmed by my conversation with Righetto prior to the Jury report and by the fact that he emphasized that the 3 seconds were illegal. Prior to the meeting, the press learned that a vote was taken by Mr. Hepp. In the press conference, he denied any knowledge of the vote. This was in addition to other answers which Mr. Hepp sidestepped. As noted before, Mr. Hepp should not have been present as his country was not represented in the basketball tourney. This appointment was by Mr. Jones. Only original member Claudio Coccia, Italy, remained. Substitutes included Andres Keiser of Cuba, Adam Baglajewski of Poland and Rafael Lopez of Puerto Rico. Lyons, USA and Semasko, USSR, were disqualified.
Ernest Knoesel, chief the German sports organizing committee, was the chair of the meeting and when recognized, I prefaced our feelings with the following statement, "we congratulate the Soviet basketball team for their play of 39 minutes and 57 seconds; however we wish to emphasize that the USA team finished ahead 50-49 in the legal time of 40 minutes and that we have never heard of a game required to play 40 min. and 3 seconds." We must reiterate that we would gladly abide by any decision which arrived at by an examination of all of the facts of the game in accordance with the rules of FIBA and the International Olympic Committee, The OATH OF THE JUDGES says, "In the name of all judges and officials, I promise that we will officiate in these Olympic Games with complete impartiality, respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them, in the true spirit of sportsmanship." We submit that the working officials of the game, namely the Referee, the umpire and the table officials all conscientiously upheld this oath. Their statements substantiate their desire to uphold the true spirit of sportsmanship. Accordingly we cannot fault any of their actions on technical grounds. They, as well as we, are ONLY concerned with the moral responsibilities which we have toward the Olympic movement. It is repeated that only Mr. R. William Jones, a person without specific assignment in the game, who has superseded all authority assigned to the working officials. Not only did he attempt to project his opinion into the game, but in the post mortem announcements, he shifts the blame for this action on to the assigned officials.
ABSENCE OF USA AT AWARD CEREMONIES!!
It has been stated that the USA team boycotted the award ceremonies at which the USSR received the gold medal. The fact must be affirmed that as acting and resident manager of the team, at no time was I informed of the change of the award ceremony from the stadium and the time. Thus, the USA HAD NO WAY OF KNOWING WHEN AND WHERE THE AWARDS WERE TO BE MADE!! Once again, communication was conveniently lacking.