KARLOVY VARY, Czech Republic – When Geno Auriemma accepted the job as U.S. women's basketball coach two years ago, the team was in flux.
Most of the core that led the team to an unprecedented four straight Olympic gold medals retired, and the rest of the world was going to have a chance to catch up.
Instead, the Americans put on quite the display at the world championship. They ran through the tournament and captured an eighth gold medal, culminating with Sunday night's 89-69 win over the Czech Republic.
"I think we knew when we started this, the thought was that this was a transition period," Auriemma said. "When you think of Lisa Leslie, Tina Thompson, Sheryl Swoopes and Katie Smith, that's a group that had been together for quite some time. We were left with three people that were on that team. We knew we had to build it back up again. We weren't sure how long it could take."
The answer: not very long at all.
How dominant was this team? The Americans won by a record 35 points a game and never trailed during their final five games. The U.S., which practiced as a full team only a few times, trailed for just 21 minutes the entire tournament. And that's with Olympic stars Candace Parker and Cappie Pondexter missing.
"When you look at the young talent we have and mix it with the two that we're missing that's going to be a very good team for a very long time," said Tamika Catchings, one of the three veterans on this team.
The Americans have a strong young core now to support Catchings, Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi heading into the 2010 London Olympics. The post position, supposedly a concern entering the worlds, dominated behind Sylvia Fowles and Tina Charles. Candice Dupree didn't miss many shots, breaking the team record by shooting 75 percent during the tournament.
Connecticut senior Maya Moore averaged 8.7 points and gained valuable experience in her first taste of play with the national team.
"She learned so much during these two weeks playing with and against the worlds best," Auriemma said. "There's no doubt she belongs here and will be a huge impact player for years to come."
Bird had an easy explanation for why the transition period didn't seem to last long. The U.S. talent pool is deep.
"We could send the second 12 and we could win this tournament," she said. "Other countries don't have that second 12. Their best players are on the court. If we can continue that as USA basketball I see good things happening for a long, long time."