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Mike Dancis, the original Adelaide giant, has died

MIKE Dancis, literally a giant of the game in South Australia, passed away in his sleep today at Glynde Lutheran Home, aged 80.

The Latvian-born immigrant was a star through the Sixties with famed A.S.K. – the club which was the merger of two Latvian-based teams, A.L.S. and Venta.

The younger brother of Olympian George Dancis, Mike stood at a genuine 6ft7in, in an era when 6-4 was considered tall.

He was the star centre of the team as it transitioned from A.S.K. to Centrals and again when it became Adelaide Giants, Dancis the club’s original giant – and of the gentle variety.

That’s not to say he wasn’t a feisty big man – he absolutely was. But he often would take greater issue with referees not doing their jobs properly than with opponents at large.

One of my favourite memories of him is walking over to a particular referee – I’d love to name him but I won’t – who was quite short and had just given Mike a foul.

Dancis leaned over him to patiently listen to his explanation while deliberately dripping his perspiration onto the ref’s head.

He liked to flail his arms and exaggerate contact but beyond his gamesmanship, he was a monster in the middle, with a soft shooting touch which saw him lead A.S.K. into five SA championship Grand Finals between 1960 and 1966.

A.S.K. won its first title in 1960, lost back-to-back championships to fellow ethnic rival, the Hungarian-based Budapest in 1961-62, beat South Adelaide in 1964 and lost to the Panthers in 1966.

Mike, who often was referred to as Maik Dancis in vintage newspaper articles from the time, was the link between the early Latvian era of Inga Freindenfelds, George Dancis, Valdis and Aivars Zarins, Eddie Ceplitis and Co, to the new breed of Maris Akermanis, Andris and Ivars Blicavs, Mike Strazds and Peter Vitols, playing on into the 1970s.

He was a regular South Australian senior state representative throughout the 60s and was a member of Australia’s groundbreaking 1964 Olympic team at the Tokyo Games.

Two years before that, Mike was a member of the Australian men’s team which competed at what was going to be the FIBA World Championship in Manila, Philippines. But when the host nation refused to issue visas to players from Communist countries, FIBA withdrew its sanction for the tournament and ran a Worlds in 1963 in Rio instead.

But the 1962 tournament still went ahead in Manila, with Mike taking part alongside some wellknown other Boomers names such as Lindsay Gaze, Barry Barnes, Bryan Hennig, the Heard brothers John and Mal, John Hody, Maris Polis, Bill Wyatt, Turaids Tiliks, John Jones and Ken Cole.

BACK LEFT: Mike Dancis is at the back of the Aussie team in Manila, led out by Lindsay Gaze.

Selected again for the Australian team for the 1968 Games in Mexico, infighting within the side sabotaged it through the qualifying tournament in Monterey and it failed to advance to the actual Olympics.

Mike’s love for the game saw him move into coaching and even lure the great Werner Linde out of retirement to play for Adelaide Giants.

A big burly teddy bear of a man, he was as articulate as he was intelligent. When asked in a post-game television interview by the late Stan Wickham what would happen with the Latvian-based team in the future, Dancis said: “It inevitably will be a case of assimilation or disintegration.”

The remark completely stumped Wickham but maybe now, Mike can explain it to him.

At the height of his playing powers, I forever recall my mother’s trepidation when Budapest – the Hungarians of which my brothers Csaba and Geza were then a part – would be playing A.S.K.

My brothers were still kids then and having them looking up at Mike and George Dancis was not a sight too many mothers relished.

“We’re not playing for sheep stations,” was another comment he made during a Masters Games match that was getting a little too willing.

Everyone settled back down.

Dancis played on into his 70s and remained a regular at Free Throw Foundation lunches, mixing again with the players, coaches and personnel of a bygone but glorious era in South Australian basketball.

A.S.K. to Centrals, to Adelaide Giants, to Adelaide Southern Suns and a merger with Noarlunga City Tigers to now be Southern Tigers, the district club of which Dancis was a forebearer bears little resemblance now to the grand old days of Forestville Stadium.

But his legacy will live on forever.

May he rest in peace.

Jan 29

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