One of the greatest basketball coaches of all time, Hank Iba guided the U.S. Men’s Basketball Team to gold medals in the Tokyo 1964 Olympic Games and the Mexico City 1968 Olympic Games as well as a silver medal in the Munich 1972 Olympic Games.
A Missouri native, Iba played at Westminster College and went into coaching after graduation. He began at the high school level before quickly moving to college. He coached four seasons at Maryville Teachers’ College (now Northwest Missouri State University) and one season at the University of Colorado before being hired at Oklahoma A&M University, now known as Oklahoma State University.
Iba coached Oklahoma A&M for 36 years and won national championships in 1945 and 1946. He coached baseball for eight years and was the school’s longtime athletic director.
Iba guided the U.S. Olympic Teams in 1964 and 1968, becoming the first coach to win two Olympic gold medals. But it was his third Olympic team, in 1972, for which Iba might be best remembered.
Playing the Soviet Union in the gold medal game, the U.S. rallied from a 10-point deficit in the second half and took a 50-49 lead on two free throws by Doug Collins with three seconds left. Following the free throw, the Soviet players inbounded the ball while their coaches lobbied that they had called timeout. The game clock was stopped with one second remaining.
Following much confusion, the clock was reset to three seconds and the Soviets were given the ball again but were unable to get a shot off before the final buzzer sounded and the Americans celebrated a second time.
Again, however, game officials cleared the court and reset the clock to three seconds. On the third try, the Soviets were able to execute a long pass and score a layup just before time expired for a 51-50 victory, snapping the U.S. Olympic Team winning streak at 63 games. It was one of the most controversial finishes in Olympic history. Iba and his team did not accept their silver medals.
At the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games, U.S. Coach Bob Knight named Iba as the team’s honorary coach. When the U.S. won the gold medal, players picked up Iba on their shoulders and carried him around the court in celebration.
Iba passed away in 1993. He was 88.