“He’s a leader,” Colangelo said. “He’s one of the great communicators you’ll find in terms of any level or manner of sport, certainly basketball. He’s committed, and he’s passionate, and he bled red, white and blue. . . . I could go on and on for a half-hour about all the reasons why.”
There are more than a few questions going forward. This Olympics was not only the last for Krzyzewski, who will return full-time to his duties at Duke, and Bryant, who will be 37 at the next Olympics, but it also might be the last for the tournament in its current form. Much of the swirl around the event dealt with the possibility that, at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, teams would be made up of players 23 and younger. No one associated with the U.S. team seemed to be in favor of that.
“My plan is until told otherwise,” Colangelo said, “it’s business as usual until something else happens.”
Business as usual, once again, involves the Americans flogging the rest of the world. In eight games here, they were pushed deep into the fourth quarter twice – in group play against Lithuania and Sunday, when Spain held the lead midway through the third quarter. Even with that, they beat their opponents by an average of 32.1 points. Even in the tight games, a feeling filtered throughout the arena: If the Americans needed a bucket, be it from Durant or James or Bryant or someone else, they would deliver.
“These guys are just fun to be around, all great teammates,” Durant said. “They didn’t care about nothing but winning. When you see that, that’s just a joy.”
The joy came out in the final minute, when James and Bryant and Durant were pulled, and each swallowed Krzyzewski with an enormous hug. When the buzzer sounded, the Americans bounced and danced and smiled, and when it came time to receive their prizes, they locked arms and stepped as one onto the medal stand together.
“It probably sounds crazy to think that after winning a gold medal this is bittersweet, but it is,” Paul said. “It’s sweet to be able to have this gold medal around your neck, but it’s tough, because you don’t get this opportunity anymore.”