Basketball: Clarendon Hills author seeks gold for 1972 Olympics basketball team
Donald "Taps" Gallagher kicked his crusade to get gold medals for the players of the 1972 U.S. Olympics men's basketball team into high gear by authoring “Stolen Glory,” an impassioned 270-page account that he hopes will serve as an impetus toward justice
Updated: August 27, 2012 6:19AM
CLARENDON HILLS — Forty years ago in the 1972 Olympics finale at Munich, a series of events late in the game gave Russia a tainted 51-50 victory and denied the United States Olympic men’s basketball team gold medals.
While millions of American fans waited to watch the Sept. 10 game, ABC finally aired he final 13 minutes on tape delay past 11 p.m. Donald “Taps” Gallagher was one of those fans watching from his home in Long Island, N.Y. The travesty that ensued made a lasting impression on a young, outraged hoops junkie.
“I told myself that if I ever became a lawyer, I was going to try to get them a gold medal,” said Gallagher, now a Clarendon Hills resident and personal-injury attorney who settled into the Chicago area 32 years ago and earned his law degree from Loyola.
Gallagher kicked his crusade into high gear by co-authoring, with Mike Brewster, “Stolen Glory,” an impassioned 270-page account that he hopes will serve as an impetus toward justice. The book will be released on July 27 and is available for order at: www.gmbooks.com
An e-book version will follow. A hard-cover commemorative edition signed by all 12 U.S. players, all of whom are still alive, is in the works. Concurrently, ESPN is considering a documentary that would air during next month’s Games.
As Gallagher began four years of research, he discovered that there were many articles on the subject, but not one book.
“I wasn’t going to do the book unless all 12 players agreed,” he said. “It took six months to hunt everyone down. I got humbled early on. I learned that I had to get more laid back, like those guys. As a group, they are modest and spiritual.
“The last player I got to was Doug Collins. He said ‘no,’ because he planned to write his own book. But then he changed his mind, and he told me he knew he had made the right decision. That was a great feeling to hear that from someone like him.”
Collins was 68-year-old coach Henry Iba’s star guard from Illinois State. He went on to coach the Chicago Bulls in the late 1980s, and continued to live in Northbrook as son Chris of Glenbrook North became Mr. Basketball of Illinois in 1992. Collins currently coaches the Philadelphia 76ers, for whom he starred as a player, and resides in Scottsdale, Ariz.
In the fateful Olympics game, Collins stole the ball, drove the length of the court and was waylaid and literally knocked out by a Russian, who also goaltended on the shot. The only call was a personal foul. Collins groggily recovered and knocked down the first shot.
Russia illegally called a timeout with Collins in possession of the ball for his second shot, which he also made to give his team a 50-49 lead with three seconds remaining.
A Soviet guard dribbled for two seconds to midcourt. His assistant coach ran on the court to try to get a timeout, which should have resulted in a technical foul and essentially end the game with the U.S. as the winner.
FIBA president R. William Jones dashed down from the stands and ordered the referees to grant the timeout. The officials then compounded the error by not only granting time, but restoring three seconds on the clock.
The events then degenerated from suspicious to blatant. Russia’s long desperation shot careened high off the backboard as time expired. Jones told the refs that Russia had tried to call another timeout and should get it. The timekeeper even put 50 seconds on the clock before eventually settling on three again. To heap insult upon injury, someone stole Iba’s wallet with $360 in it during all the shenanigans.
Finally, Soviet big man Alexander Belov received a full-length pass and put in a short shot for the 51-50 verdict. Fittingly, he got away with an obvious push-off. And the guard who inbounded the ball stepped on the line, the refs missing that as well.
The U.S. team also lost two key players earlier in the game. A Russian backup forward got into a fight with U.S. star Dwight Jones. They were both ejected on what should have been no more than a double warning or technical.
Early in the second half, another Russian grabbed the arm of 6-foot-9 Jim Brewer, the Minnesota stalwart who was the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, and threw him to the floor. Brewer suffered a concussion and missed the rest of the affair.
The U.S. team formally protested the game. The five FIBA officials upheld the outcome by a 3-2 vote the next day, Sept. 11. That likely would have gone 3-2 in favor of the Americans had a Communist official not suddenly replaced one from Egypt.
The Americans refused to accept their silver medals, a pledge they’ve kept ever since.
“We hadn’t earned the silver medal. We won the gold medal,” insisted Brewer, who still lives in Maywood after leading Proviso East’s 1969 state champions and earning that year’s Mr. Basketball of Illinois award. “That’s the medal we earned, so why accept anything else?”
The outcry was muted by several factors. Anything that took place in a basketball game didn’t seem all that important less than a week after Palestinian terrorists killed 10 Israelis and a West German police officer on the Olympics campus in what would forever be called the Munich Massacre. Several countries left with more than a week remaining, and the Games were nearly cancelled.
“That whole Olympics, a lot of unjust things happened. And more after the Israeli murders. A lot of people thought the Olympics should have been cancelled,” said Gallagher. “The climate was not pro-American, more anti-American.”
This was also long before Olympics basketball allowed professional players to compete and the modern era of hyped “Dream Teams.” And the U.S. roster, though it proved gold-worthy, was absent Bill Walton, Julius Erving, Pete Maravich and Calvin Murphy and other collegiate megastars who chose not to compete due to injuries, conflicts or other reasons.
Gallagher wants his book to become a lynchpin for action. His objective is to convince the IOC to award duplicate gold medals, which it has done before.
“I want to get an affidavit from the one living official that they were influenced by Jones. Jones was a dictator. If he told you to do something, you did it. He went way beyond what his job was supposed to be,” said Gallagher. “I’ve been told that I have no chance. But then one IOC guy said he sees a crack in the door. I’m trying to get a hearing.”
Gallagher, who has three daughters (Glynis, Morgan, Nell) with his wife, Kim, of 28 years, will join all 12 players when they hold their first reunion in four decades on Aug. 25 in Lexington, Ky.
For more information on the event and the group’s cause, go to: www.courageinmunich.com
“The IOC really should award duplicate gold medals and end this fiasco,” stressed Gallagher.