The United States men’s basketball team reached its goal of winning the gold medal against Spain. Team USA will not have to compete in any international competitions until the 2010 FIBA World Championships in Turkey.
Now the U.S. will have to worry about keeping itself on top of the world and not losing what it’s worked so hard to regain.
Team USA director Jerry Colangelo probably won’t do anything drastic for at least the next year, and he will most likely start his work on the 2012 Olympic team in the summer of 2009.
The first order of business will be picking a new head coach after several media sources are reporting that Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski will not return to Team USA.
The short list of possible replacements likely includes NBA coaches Gregg Popovich, Nate McMillan, P.J. Carlisemo, and Mike D’Antoni, along with Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim. It also wouldn’t be surprising to see Doug Collins’ name surface as his role on the 1972 team has turned him into someone that Team USA deeply respects.
Collins is probably a long shot because he seems to enjoy the relatively stress-free job as a color commentator for the NBA, although I imagine he would have a hard time saying no to Colangelo.
Another long shot but interesting candidate is Jason Kidd. He is the only one in the league with two gold medals at the moment and is the one guy every player, even Kobe Bryant, looks up to for leadership.
LeBron James has already lobbied for Kidd to be a player-coach and there’s no question that any Team USA member will embrace any role that he wants to have in 2012. It might be unrealistic for Colangelo to give Kidd the reigns as the head coach, but it wouldn’t be the least bit surprising if he decides to be an assistant coach for the U.S. after he retires.
Colangelo’s next order of business is building the new roster. It’s likely going to start with around 20 or so players before narrowing to 12. Unlike 2000 and 2004, there will be plenty of good players who will do whatever they can to get on the 2012 roster.
The 2012 roster should have five or six of the same players on the 2008 roster. It seems pretty safe to say that James, Dwayne Wade, and Carmelo Anthony will be among the first additions to the team.
The U.S. will have plenty of talent to choose from, but the real test is going to be how the Americans play two and four years from now. Team USA achieved the goal of winning the gold medal but now that it is back on top, the question is if the NBA players are still going to have that desire.
Many of Team USA’s current rivals aren’t going to be competitive in 2012. Argentina could lose as many as five of the top six in its rotation.
Almost the entire Lithuanian team will have to be scrapped as its best players will be well past their prime, and possibly even retired. Spain has a young core that might make it competitive, but there will be some big losses.
Spain could lose as many as eight players, including Pau Gasol from its roster. However, it will retain Rudy Fernandez, Ricky Rubio, Jose Calderon, and Marc Gasol. Spain seems to have little problem finding talent in its system so it should be a medal contender, especially if Pau comes back.
The point is that this is not the end of the international threat. In fact, there will be even more competitive teams and better talent.
The U.S. blew out every team besides Spain in the gold medal game during the Olympics, but the wins weren’t as easy as they looked. Aside from weeks of preparation, the coaching staff scouted every team four hours at a time.
Kobe Bryant respected the opposition so much that he often went to games with Coach K so he could see the strengths and weaknesses of the guy he was going to defend. There is no way that Michael Jordan would agree to give up his gambling nights to watch Toni Kukoc or Allen Iverson with Sarunas Jasikevicius.
In fact, Larry Brown probably wouldn’t watch any of the international teams either.
Not too long ago, there was an idea of possibly bringing back college players to the Olympics because of the unselfishness they would bring to the games. That idea is absurd mainly because it would insult the rest of the world and a team full of college players would have no chance at winning a medal.
More importantly, this team has shown that a bunch of all-stars who make millions of dollars a year can play together and put aside their egos.
Team USA may have been redeemed by winning the gold medal, but it needs to win the FIBA World Championships and 2012 Olympics before it can truly say that U.S. basketball is on top of the world.
Winning the World Championships isn’t going to be as glamorous as winning the gold medal, but the U.S. should be equally as hungry to win in 2010. The last time the Americans have won the World Championships was 1994.
Team USA lost two of the last three tournaments because they didn’t respect the opponent, but would’ve won in 1998 if the lockout didn’t prevent NBA players from participating.
Besides, the U.S. is too good to have to play in the Tournament of the Americas where a team of college players could finish in the top two competing against teams like Venezuela and Uruguay.
Some sports columnists have been so naïve as to say that Colangelo reached his goal by winning the gold medal and should resign as the Managing Director. But he understands that the world is constantly catching up to the U.S. and it will have to expect three-year commitments from every roster as long as the Olympics carry basketball as a sport.
It’s because he understands that this year was not the finish line, but the beginning of an era where the world’s best players have to prove that they are the best every two years.