September 9 1972 is the date that marked the official end of Uncle Sam’s monopoly over basketball’s greatest prizes. A moment in time that is still frozen in the minds of basketball fans from Moscow to Massachusetts.

The Olympic Games. Munich. The Soviet Union claim a shock gold with a 51-50 win over the USA when Alexander Belov scored on an inbound pass with 3 seconds remaining. The Americans, then including Doug Collins, were incensed. The officials had conspired against them with their time-keeping, they alleged. In protest, they declined to accept the silver medals which, to this day, remain locked and unwanted in a Swiss vault.

“I was one of those crying when we lost the game,” David Blatt reveals. He recalls lying in his bed, back in Framingham Massachusetts, a 12-year-old boy more used to hearing the triumphs of his heroes than defeats over the crackling speaker of his transistor radio.

“I used to hold it against my ear listening to Johnny Most calling all the Celtics games. They were my big heroes. Bill Russell was my idol. My first book report was on Bill Russell. I was a huge fan of basketball. Just American basketball. I didn’t know anything about `European basketball. I didn’t even know it existed until 1972.”

That was when the USSR made everyone take notice. It was when the new world began, a period when Americans headed overseas to earn a living from the game, eventually spawning a reverse trade that sees the best of the world come to the NBA, fully prepared to stand up to their stars.

David Blatt will be an American coaching against the USA (FIBA)

Which is exactly what Russia plan to do on Thursday evening in the quarter-finals of the FIBA World Championship with Blatt hoping to leave a kid somewhere in the US of A feeling the same sense of disappointment as he did that night 38 years ago.

Probably in his final tournament as Russian head coach, the American does not want an adventure that included the 2007 Eurobasket title to end, At least, not yet. And not in a game which, you sense, has brought back the memories of old.

“It’s full circle after growing up in the States, watching the Americans playing in the Olympics all those years,” the 51-year-old proclaims. “And now I’m up against them at a world championship. It’s mind-boggling for me. But I hope my guys are less confused and they go out and play. I just don’t want to mess it up.”

Regarded as one of the brightest minds in European basketball of the past 20 years, there is little chance of that. Now set to take charge of Aris Thessaloniki, he has expanded his mind – and his collection of honours – through prior stops in Dynamo Moscow, Benetton Treviso as well as in a long stint with Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Yet here is now, an American preparing a team which will be heavy underdogs to meet the tournament favourites, And even post-Cold War, the match-up retains a powerful political subtext.

“I don’t feel it but I believe that the people in Russia feel it,” Blatt claims. “For me, it’s a closure. I’m a guy who grew up in Framingham, Massachusetts. I played for the greatest high school coach in the world in Smokey Moresi. Before you know it, 30 something years later, I’m coaching the Russian national team against the Americans. What do they call then? The B-Deem Team? That’s unfair. Those guys are too good. But I’m very excited about it.”

This is not Russia’s A-Team either. There is no Andrei Kirilenko or JR Holden. While former NBA forward Viktor Khryapa has been hindered by a foot injury which has limited his appearances.

Hence, they are a team of prospects, hungry and eager to prove themselves. Players like Andrey Vorontsevich of CSKA Moscow have seized their chance. “He’s a guy who rarely gets off the bench in Russia,” Blatt points out. “But he’s hungry and wanted to play. And because Kirilenko’s not playing, he gets time. Its’ funny how players can start to play good when they’re on the court. It’s hard to play good when you’re stuck on the bench.”

A check of one betting site figures the sizes of Russia’s task. They are 66-to-1 against to win. You might get better odds of the arena falling down than that. For a team that is the first in the competition to hold a major size advantage over the USA, plus the ability of Blatt to mix and match his options – and the benefit of having largely unknown – that is ridiculous.

Don’t ask Blatt to talk up their chances.

“My mind tends to wander to the things that are somewhat realistic,” he said. “I want to see us play well. I don’t want to see us give into that onslaught they’ll bring at us. It’s not going to be easy. They’re long, athletic, tough, aggressive, hungry. They have great coaches, better than me. We have to do a lot special to stay in the game. I’ll see if I can figure it out but I’m not a magician.”

There might be a trick left up Blatt’s sleeve. He knows from tearful experience that there are no absolute certainties in the new world order.

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