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Chile legend Juan Ostoic dies at 89
29/06/2020
FIBA Family
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Chile legend Juan Ostoic dies at 89

SANTIAGO (Chile) - International basketball has lost one of its legendary and most fascinating figures with the passing of Juan Ostoic.

An undersized center at 1.80m (6ft 2in) with Chile's team that finished third at the first FIBA Basketball World Cup in Argentina 70 years ago, Ostoic died of heart failure on Thursday. He was 89.

Ostoic, nicknamed 'Bigote' (Mustache),  made his name as a player on the hardwood but became even more famous after his basketball career as the creator of crossword puzzles that appeared in the La Tercera De La Hora newspaper.

As a player, he showed tenacity and intelligence. In addition to the 1950 success, he played for Chile at the 1952 Olympics, the FIBA Basketball World Cup 1954 and the 1956 Olympics.

Much smaller than his main rivals, he overcame the height difference with great athleticism, tremendous hustle and smart play.  He was a mainstay of the national team during its famous era of the Fifties.

He later transitioned from player to coach, and held the reins of Union Espanola of Santiago, winning five consecutive national titles with the Big Red Machine in 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972 and 1973.

Ostoic did this with great Chilean players: Juan Guillermo Thompson, Chile's greatest player ever; Manuel Torres , captain of the national team; Edgardo Arismendi, 'The Jerry West of Chile.' He blended in two foreign players: Berkeley Bute (USA) and Jose Miller (Costa Rica).

When legendary coach Dan Peterson held the reins of Chile's national team from 1971-73, Ostoic worked as his assistant.

"His advice, on a daily basis, was fantastic," Peterson said. "I wanted to take 5ft 9in (1.75m) Lorenzo Pardo, from Iquique, way up north, on the team.  The federation had doubts, saying Pardo was a behavior problem. Juan Ostoic was from Iquique himself.  He told me Pardo would help us win.  Best advice I ever received! 

Now that is what an assistant coach is supposed to do!  Lorenzo won huge games for us, with winning baskets or winning free throws. But Juan gave me great advice every single day: what to say or not to say; insights on people.  He was invaluable."

Juan Ostoic (left) playing defense

Ostoic was also a wordsmith and that led to him being known after his playing career. He became the country's foremost creator of crossword puzzles.

"The puzzles were unbelievably complex," Peterson said. "I thought he'd need a week to do just one.  He said, 'No, Dan, six hours.'"

La Tercera published a story two years ago about Ostoic's talents as their crossword expert, even into his eighties.

"The best thing about continuing to work," he said, "is that you continue to have dreams and projects."

FIBA