View Full Version : Great Olympic Teams - 1960

08-09-2010, 09:08 AM
Thanks DBR for posting a link to article by the Big O on the 1960 Olympic team. The article puts the team in proper historical perspective. It was a transition from teams made up of a majority of AAU and military players with a few college players to a team made up of mostly college players. Robertson rightly points out that Havlicek was left off the team. My recollection was the most observers of the tryouts felt that Havlicek deserved to be on the team but that the selection committee wanted a combination of college, AAU and military players and he lost a spot in the numbers game.

I'm glad to hear that the team is being honored. They had an outstanding coach and three of the greatest college players of all time (Robertson, West and Lucas).


Olympic Fan
08-09-2010, 12:27 PM
The struggle between the AAU and NCAA to dominate the Olympic basketball team is an interesting story and could be the subject of a book. The 1960 team was a great one -- and I'm glad to get Oscar's account.

A little background may be in order.

In 1936, when basketball was added to the Olympic Games, the USOC originally wanted to send Clair Bee's 1936 Long Island Blackbirds -- winners of 32 straight games and clearly the best college team in the country.

But most of the players on the team were Jewish and objected to playing in the Nazi Olympics. At the time, a young USOC official named Avery Brundege was trying to supress a boycott of the games. He made a well publicized trip to Nazi Germany and came back with the report that the reports of Nazi anti-semitism were greatly overblown. He managed to squelch the boycott -- or at least keep it from becoming widespread.

At any rate, the LIU team was replaced by an AAU team, which won the Oympic gold in Berlin. When the games resumed in 1948, the USOC forced the AAU and the NCAA to compromise on a basketball team. Adolph Rupp's 1948 NCAA champs -- the Fab Five -- were taken intact, but the rest of the team was made up of AAU players, who were mostly former NCAA players (such as UCLA's Don Barksdale, the first black to play in the Olympics for the US).

I was just reading a bio of Bill Russell and the story of the formation of the 1956 Olympic team is fascinating. In the first place, the Games were held in November and December (summer in Australia) and by committing to play for the United States, Russell had to miss the first half of his rookie NBA season.

Even that wasn't enough for Brundage, who insisted that Russell pledge that he would NEVER turn pro in order to play on the Olympic team. President Eisenhower had personally asked Russell to represent the United States -- Brundage's demands led to some convoluted maneuverings behind the scenes. Russell never promised not to turn pro in the future, but he was careful not to make any deals with the Celtics (or the Globetrotters, which were actually offering him more money than the Celtics) until his return from Melbourne.

Russell took part in a tournament (administered by the AAU) in April of 1956 to determine the proportional representation of the 1956 team. The four-team field included the AAU champion Buchan Bakers, the AAU runnerup Phillips 76ers, the Armed Forces All-Stars and the College All-Stars, headed by Russell, KC Jones, Hal Lear and Willie Naulls.

The college team beat the Bakers and the Armed Forces team, but lost 79-75 to the 76ers in a game that was widely viewed as fixed by the AAU-appointed officials.

At any rate, their win allowed the AAU to appoint the majority of the Olympic team. Three college players make the team -- Russell, Jones and Carl Cain of Iowa (all African-American).

It didn't matter -- with Russell in the middle, the Americans dominated the world. In the preliminaries against a Russian team that had won the '52 Olympic Silver and was the reigning European Champion, the US won 85-55. In the semifinals, Russia beat France as 7-foot-6, 360-pound center Yan Kruminish scored 27 points.

In the finals, Russell held Kruminish without a field goal and the US opened the game with a 16-2 run and cruised 89-55.

The AAU-NCAA battle continued until at least 1972. I covered the 1976 Olympic trials in Raleigh and there was no AAU presence. It was all NCAA.

08-09-2010, 04:51 PM
As shown in the usabasketball link below, there were seven college players, four AAU players and one military player on the 1960 team. In addition to the three college stars (Robertson, West and Lucas), there were Dischinger and Bellamy, both outstanding college players and later top pros, Imhoff, the top player on Newell's NCAA champions, and Arnette, a great shooter. The AAU players included three players who were long-time players for AAU teams sponsored by companies, and one player, Boozer, who put off the pros (he eventually played in the NBA while I'm pretty sure the other three didn't). The lone military player was Smith, a star at Kentucky and eventually a teammate of the Big O in the pros. Of the non-collegians, Lane and Smith played a lot and provided experience in the backcourt while Boozer helped the frontcourt off the bench.