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US Wins Gold In London

After watching LeBron James and company put flags on their shoulders and dance gleefully across the floor after defeating Spain in the Olympic finals, after seeing that level of exultation and emotion, after all the good that accrues to the NBA, you have to ask: is David Stern nuts?

Why would anyone want to put an end to that? Because it was magnificent.

This team, despite concerns about the post, despite not having Dywane Wade, Dwight Howard, Derrick Rose, Blake Griffith and Chris Bosh - a team which could have also won gold - came together brilliantly.

Part of that of course was the desire of the players who put aside everything else to win. The leaders of the team - Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and most of all James - all of these guys are alpha dogs. So are the reserves, James Harden and Anthony Davis excluded. Yet no one showed the slightest bit of ego.

It became a bit of an illusion in fact, the unity so convincing and the performances so overwhelming that a reporter asked Coach K after the second Argentina game if he was even needed.

But it was an illusion. For those of us who saw some of the miserable performances before Coach K and Jerry Colangelo, who saw the pitiful effort in Athens under Larry Brown, author of a thousand excuses, and the disaster in Indianapolis under George Karl where the U.S. finished sixth in an international event - in the states! - well, it seemed that after the Dream Team revolutionized international hoops, the U.S. could no longer keep up.

That's changed, and probably for a long time, because the template Colangelo and Krzyzewski put in place should endure: a multi-year commitment from players, a high level of athleticism and powerful defense. Add in the camaraderie the players built over the last two games, and it should endure.

To a large extent, though, a vast amount of the praise for what's happened goes directly to Coach K, who finished his national team career with just one loss. People look at what's happened as something new, but really it's not. It's been happening at Duke since the 1980's, at Army before that and well before that, too. As Coach K has said, he started forming teams while growing up in Chicago.

Most of us, though, know the pattern from our exposure at Duke. We've heard the phrases, maybe sometimes to the point where they don't always have the impact they should: the five fingers of a fist, being part of something bigger than yourself, no ego but team ego, a pot in a pot is a potted plant, but outside who knows.

All of the stuff we saw in London and before that in Beijing we've seen in Durham: the unity, the team coming together, the intensely competitive nature...nothing new.

But seeing it on that level with that class of basketball player, and taking it to the world, well, it was beautiful. And we'll say it again: David Stern has to be nuts to not think this is great for the NBA, and, really, for the country.


We should also point out that while the US won, the Spanish really weren't that far away. They're a very, very good team and were capable of winning. The strengths of the US team were just too much.  If we were Spaniards, we'd be proud and optimistic for the future.


With Coach K's departure, though Colangelo still hopes to change his mind, where does the program go from here? There is a certain logic to having a college coach involved, because he's not part of the NBA world nor subject to their rivalries and concerns. If they go that way, there are only a handful of guys who would make sense, and none of them brings everything to the table Krzyzewski does: Rick Pitino, conceivably Rick Majerus, Bill Self, and Jim Boeheim, who will have the most experience.

But perhaps the best guy might be Tom Izzo, although his style may be a bit slow for the personnel involved.

You'll notice that we didn't list Roy Williams. Although he's an excellent coach, he's always focused on offense. We've no doubt a team coached by Williams could break the scoring record, but defense has proven to be a real US advantage and very critical in tight games. Also, but no less importantly, his teams have periodically come into big games and were clearly not prepared. Think Georgetown and Kansas, not to mention Florida State this past season.