For Bobby Knight and his United States basketball team there was sweet revenge for two weeks of aggravation tonight as they delivered an American brand of basketball justice to Puerto Rico, 113-94, in the Pan American Games final.
"Now Bobby will never win his trial," said the beleaguered coach's jubilant wife as the game ended. "That is, unless he waits about two months until they all forget."
For Knight in particular and the U.S. squad in general this tournament has been what the coach's wife called "one long Puerto Rico headache."
This was the evening for vindication - for the U.S. team which has been criticized for spotty performances, and for Coach Knight, who has been ejected from one game, booed here constantly as the personification of the Ugly American, handcuffed, jailed, and today hauled into court.
If Knight had his day in court this morning when he got a delay of his trial for aggravated assault on a police officer until August 22, then his team had its night on court this evening.
What Isiah Thomas, Mike Brooks and Mike Woodson did to the speedy but short Puerto Ricans was nothing less than aggravated assault.
"The team has just wanted to prove something for two weeks," said Knight's wife. "Whether it's true or not, they have felt like a scapegoat for all the anti-American feeling down here."
This morning, the mother of U.S. player Kyle Macy called to deliver a message to the team - one which capture their feeling.
Macy was home in bed recuperating from a broken jaw - the result of a cheap-shot punch by Cuban enforcer Tomas Herrara.
"Kyle's mother said she could barely hear the words when he mumbled them through the wires," said Knight's wife. "Kyle said, 'Tell the guys to kick their fanny.'"
Generally speaking, that was about what the U.S. did in the first half, jumping to a 15-point lead.
But this jam-packed down of 12,000 in Roberto Clemente Coliseum was determined to get itself in the game. The fans roared and pleaded until the island team finally started a streak that cut the U.S. lead to 73-70 with 9:30 to play.
This was the point that every Puerto Rican fan has longed for - the U.S. on the ropes and this tiny commonwealth with a chance for its first gold medal of the Games.
Even this morning in court, Knight's Spanish-speaking lawyer - a Puerto Rican - had offered an unusual line of reasoning in asking for a postponement. "Your honor," he said, "we ask for a delay so that Puerto Rico will have a chance to win tonight's game.
Presumably, his reasoning was that had Knight been found guilty some sort of U.S protest might have materialized.
"I thought we'd whip 'em by 20," said Coach Knight with as deliberate a lack of diplomacy as possible. "All I know is that we just beat . . . everybody down here.
"I'm sick of all the bull down here. I've never seen a team put up with the crap that's been thrown at them down here. My players know what's happened. They're the only people on this whole bleeping island I care anything about.
When Puerto Rico cut its deficit to three points, Clemente Coliseum was one huge sea of island flags, banners and chants.
But Thomas, Brooks and Woodson stopped that in a hurry.
In the next 2:54, the U.S. ran of a 19-4 streak for a 94-76 lead with 6:36 to play that decided the game. That high-flying trio scored all except two points.
Thomas, the 6-foot-1 guard from Chicago who plans to enroll at Indiana next year, was easily the most spectacular player of the tournament with his daring, and sometimes aborted, drives through tall timber.
Three times Thomas, with a sprinting start, wove his way through Puerto Rico's maze of 6-foot-6 players and spun the ball in at rim level. One double-scoop, across-the-lane, palm-it-off-the-dribble piece of magic made even the home crowd cheer.
When Thomas, who may cure Knight headaches for four years at Indiana, was not shooting for his 21 points, he was making life easy for Brooks, who lurked near the basket for a thunderous assortment of power moves and 27 points.
Brooks, who in three years at La Salle has averaged 23.7 points, exposed Puerto Rico's lack of a true center. The locals, reduced to playing three, and sometimes four natural forwards, had no response for the launches of the 6-7 1/2, 221-pound Brooks.
While Thomas and Brooks pleased those American partisans in the crowd, and distracted the Puerto Rican's attention. Woodson - the smooth 6-5 forward who will be an Indiana senior next year - was everywhere collecting garbage and field goals. Few in this crowd tonight will guess he had 23 points, giving him 102 points for the last four games with his silky pull-up jumpers in the lane and quick pops from the corners.
If that trio got the glory, then 6-10 Kevin (Big Mac) McHale from Minnesota continued to serve notice that he is smart supporting player in the Alvan Adams mold. He gave a clinic on how to play to pivot without either muscle or jumping ability.
The banners exhorted Puerto Rico's stars George Torres and Angel Cruz, each of whom scored 19, but the sign that said, "Go, you little giant" for the 5-7 Cruz should have been for Thomas instead. CAPTION: Picture, Louise Ritter of the United States sets a Pan American Games record in women's high jump with a leap of 1.93 meters. UPI