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US men's basketball has holes to fill before Rio

Monday - 8/13/2012, 12:34am  ET

By BRIAN MAHONEY
AP Basketball Writer

LONDON (AP) - Kobe Bryant and Mike Krzyzewski are finished. LeBron James isn't sure.

After years of stability, the U.S. men's basketball team will have holes to fill before the 2016 Olympics. The Americans will need a new coach and maybe a new core.

The road to Rio starts around the new year.

"I think we need to decompress and we plan to do that," USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said. "Everything is going to be done over the next few months. I'm looking at the end of December where the future will be clear."

The Americans won their second straight gold medal Sunday, beating Spain 107-100, a game that wasn't decided until the closing minutes when James blasted down the lane for a monster dunk and drilled a 3-pointer. The final played out much like their classic game in Beijing, the Americans pulling away in the closing minutes to push aside a huge challenge by the Spanish.

Unlike that night, the Americans' future is uncertain.

Many key players had already said they would return if asked by the time they played for gold in China. Krzyzewski didn't commit until the following year, after a pizza and wine get-together with Colangelo, though there was already the belief he would be back.

This time, Krzyzewski made it clear he's calling it an international career.

"I am. But I think I can get a great meal out of this. I've already told Jerry, a great Italian restaurant," he said. "The thing I want to do with Jerry, after every competition, we take some time to evaluate everything. In the military, we call it an after-action report. We've done that all the time and talk about what we did, what we could have changed and done better, and in moving forward, what's the next step moving forward. That's how we've done it the last seven years and we will continue to do it that way."

Colangelo said he wants to keep the 65-year-old Krzyzewski around in whatever capacity the Hall of Fame coach chooses. As for who replaces Coach K on the sidelines, Colangelo didn't want to speculate.

"There's been a lot of names thrown out, a lot of good candidates and a lot of people who would love to have it," he said.

Colangelo will have to decide if he wants to stick with a college coach, as he did with Krzyzewski, or return to the professional ranks. The Olympic team coach had been from the NBA since pros were first used in 1992 until he tabbed the Hall of Fame Duke coach in 2005.

Bryant, who will turn 34 this month, is retiring from international play. But the U.S. got a boost Saturday when the secretary general of FIBA, basketball's governing body, said he doesn't foresee the Olympics adding an under-23 age limit for 2016, as the NBA has discussed.

James said he wouldn't play anymore if the age limit was implemented, even if he was granted an exception, because he wouldn't want to play without his teammates. So there's still a chance the Americans could have the game's best player, who would be 31 in Rio, wearing red, white and blue for a fourth straight Olympics.

If James and remaining '08 holdovers Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Deron Williams don't return, the leader of the team could be Kevin Durant, who carried a young U.S. squad to gold in the 2010 world basketball championship and scored 30 points Sunday in the gold-medal game.

"He's 23, he can play a little more," Paul cracked, after asking Durant his age. "I'm glad that I got this opportunity. This is a once-in-a-liftime chance and this was my second time. There's nothing like playing in an Olympics. There's nothing like playing for your country. We've played a lot of basketball over our careers, but nothing compares to this at this level."

While the Americans are still on top, Krzyzewski knows trouble looms just below.

"We know that these teams can beat us," he said. "We know that Argentina is good enough to beat us. We know that Spain was good enough to beat us today, and if we didn't have that respect, we would get beat. And that's why I'm proud of our guys, they recognize that and prepare as well as we've prepared in order to come through in a game like we had today."

The next competition is the 2014 World Cup of Basketball in Spain. The Americans are automatically qualified with their Olympic victory, so there's no need to rush into any decisions.

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