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Questionable officiating halts Canadian progress at 1971 Pan American Games

High expectations fell flat as questionable officiating and failed execution limits a talented Canadian squad to an eighth-place finish at the 1971 Pan American Games in Cali, Columbia.

Former Canadian Olympian Phil Tollestrup playing in his first of three Pan Am Games at 1971 Pan American Games in Cali, Columbia.
Former Canadian Olympian Phil Tollestrup playing in his first of three Pan Am Games at 1971 Pan American Games in Cali, Columbia. - Illustrations: Edilson J. Silva

You know how to whistle, don’t you?

Officiating was a huge question mark during men’s basketball competition at the 1971 Pan American Games, held in Cali, Columbia.

Take a look at the Team USA roster. It boasted future ABA/ NBA superstars Bob McAdoo, Paul Westphal, Brian Taylor and Don Buse.

They would not even qualify past the first round with two wins and a loss.

So how do you think Canada would fare?

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1971 Pan American Games

July 31, 1971

Canada 75 – Argentina 81

Canadian head coach Peter Mullins, 44, was, to say the least, not too happy with the officiating.

“The officiating was just atrocious. It was virtually nonexistent. The Argentines played quite rough and fouled a lot without a whistle being blown against them. But I’m apologizing. We would have lost anyway.”

Canadian sportswriter Eric Whitehead echoed the lack of officiating: “The game was not just against Argentina. It was really against Argentina and a basketball referee.”

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He continued: “I gathered that the Canadians lost because they forget something.”

“They didn’t get the trainer to sharpen their elbows before the game. And that’s only one example of the Olympic-style at work. If we get much more of this friendly cooperation between nations, they will have to change the name of the competition to the Pan-American War!”

August 1, 1971

Canada 88 – Columbia 58

Hours of research to find quotes and results. Couldn’t find any extra info on this game other than score. Will update accordingly.

August 3, 1971

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Canada 65 – Panama 69

“We were a match for anyone here in speed and shooting ability. We should have beaten Panama, but we failed to capitalize on their errors,” said Mullins.

Canada had a 34-28 halftime lead before Panama moved ahead 50-48 with nine minutes to play.

Davis Peralta and Pedro Rivas paced Panama with 19 points apiece. Tim Tollestrup led Canada with 18.

August 5, 1971

Canada 72 – US Virgin Islands 67

Canada would finish with a 2-2 record for 8th place in the 13-nation tournament, which was held from July 31 to August 12, 1971.

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“A lot of people thought we didn’t belong in international competition,” concluded Mullins. “Our record in Cali has proven that we can be competitive and beat a lot of teams.”

Must Read:
Canada romps Dominican Republic in opener of FIBA AmeriCup 2021 qualifiers

“I am somewhat disappointed because I really thought we could have made the finals. We were a lot better than our record indicates.”

Brazil would claim gold, with silver going to Puerto Rico.

Derek sankey former ubc thunderbirds guard goes grabs a rebound against the manitoba bisons
Derek sankey former ubc thunderbirds guard goes grabs a rebound against the manitoba bisons

Team members were: Alex Brayden, Alan Brown, Terry McKay, Bob Molinski, John Olsen, Derek Sankey, Gary Smith, Ted Stoesz, Ron Thorsen, Phil Tollestrup, Tim Tollestrup, Alan Williams and alternate Bob Town. Coach Peter Mullins and manager Bill Norton.

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