MADRID, Spain -- The basketball coach of the Soviet Union says American players are a 'generation ahead' of the rest of the world.
Vladimir Obukhov led his players to the finals without a loss. He then watched the U.S. team's convincing display in Sunday night's 87-85 victory for the gold medal at the World Basketball Championships.
'The U.S. team was very young, but the United States is a generation ahead of us,' said Obukhov, whose team was worn out by chasing the Americans' fastbreak. 'Our defense wasn't good enough to stop them in either half.'
U.S. coach Lute Olson said a prime reason for the difference between American and European basketball 'is that our players start playing basketball when they're very small, and because the European players start later, they are a little more mechanical in their play.'
The Americans' strategy was similar to that of Yugoslavia, which pushed the Soviets to overtime before losing 91-90. The United States passed up the quick, outside shot unless the defender backed off. Because most of their shots were from inside 10 feet, the Americans were in position to rebound.
'We tried to play that way for the whole tournament,' said 5-foot-3 playmaker Tyrone Bogues. 'We love the transition game and if we couldn't run, always get the ball inside and keep it moving. But because we all came from different programs, it took time to adjust to one another.'
The American team was a collection of college players with an average age of 20 and no player older than 22. Most of the other 23 teams had at least one player in his 30s.
The 1988 U.S. Olympic team will have few, if any, of the current members from this squad.
The Soviets are expected to deny Arvidas Sabonis, the star 7-2 center, the hance to join the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers, who drafted the 21-year-old this spring. The USSR team is comparatively young and its talent still developing, though hindered by lack of sufficient competition in Europe.
The Yugoslavians were regarded as the only team capable of taking the gold away from the Americans or Soviets. But the dream died Thursday night when the USSR scored 9 points in the final 47 seconds of regulation play and won 91-90 in overtime.
Yugoslavian coach Kresimir Cosic claimed his team was targeted for abuse by the Spanish press. A Madrid newspaper implied that two Yugoslavians raped one of the hostesses assigned to the team. The paper said the woman allegedly required stitches and left for England.
'The newspapers have written complete lies -- the worse things that can be written,' Cosic said. 'And the Spanish press is doing that on purpose.'
Other teams said they would continue to seek the size and competition necessary to prepare a challenge to basketball's three powers.
'It's very hard for us to conquer teams that have at least two men taller than 7-foot-1, as is the case with the teams here at the championships,' Spain coach Antonio Diaz Miguel said. 'We don't have the tall players so that is our main problem in rebuilding the team.'
Said Brazil coach Ary Ventura Vidal: 'Being fourth was important because we rarely play on the international level to meet superior teams. Even though we've played 10 games here, we could still play more.'