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Tuesday, August 16, 2005
Gomelsky's team upset U.S. in 1988 Olympics news services

MOSCOW -- Aleksandr Gomelsky, the Soviet Union basketball coach who ended the 21-game winning streak of the United States at the 1988 Olympics, died Tuesday after a long illness. He was 77.

Gomelsky, who as a child survived the Leningrad siege during World War II, coached the Soviet Union to two world and eight European titles and an Olympic gold medal in 1988.

Aleksandr Gomelsky
Aleksandr Gomelsky was known as the father of Soviet basketball.

He began his coaching career in 1949 at age 21 in Leningrad and became coach of SKA Riga in 1953, taking the army club from the Latvian capital to five Soviet league titles and three consecutive European Cups from 1957 to 1959.

In 1966, he was appointed head coach of CSKA Moscow and led the team to a European title in 1970 and 10 national championships.

His greatest coaching triumph, however, came at the 1988 Olympics.

In Seoul, South Korea, he engineered an upset victory over the United States in the semifinals, ending a streak of 21 consecutive wins by the Americans in Olympic competition.

In the final, the Soviets beat the former Yugoslavia to win only their second Olympic basketball gold medal.

His teams also won silver in 1964, and bronze in 1968 and 1980.

Known as the father of Soviet basketball and "Aleksandr the Great," he served three stints as the national team coach, from 1958-60, 1962-70 and 1976-88.

After finishing his coaching career in 1988, Gomelsky became CSKA Moscow's basketball president.

In 1995, he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, the only Soviet coach to be given this honor.

Gomelsky, who had been suffering from cancer since 1998, is survived by wife Tatyana and four sons.

Russian President Vladimir Putin led the tributes to the Soviet coach, sending his condolences to Gomelsky's family.

"His death is a loss for the entire sporting world," said Russia's Sports Minister Vyacheslav Fetisov, who captained the Soviet ice hockey team in the 1970s and '80s.

"Gomelsky was a great tactician and strategist. He was also a great psychologist. As a coach he was ahead of his time."

Sergei Chernov, president of the Russian Basketball Federation, said: "I had been visiting him in hospital and until the last day he was thinking of his beloved game of basketball.

"He was a coach in the true meaning of the word."

This report contains information from The Associated Press and Reuters.

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