SAITAMA, Japan — Dawn Staley had just announced, during a gold medal press conference, that she was "done" as the U.S. women's basketball head coach.
After she stepped off the podium, I asked her if she would recommend Lynx coach and General Manager Cheryl Reeve as her replacement.
"Absolutely,'' Staley said. "Cheryl's been around for a long time and she has been an assistant coach with this team for a long time. She can handle this position quite well and she'll demand and command respect from the players.
"What she can bring to the table is unmatched. So she'd get my nod, for sure.''
If Reeve, a Team USA assistant, is promoted to head coach, she will face pressure. The U.S. women have won seven straight gold medals and 55 straight Olympic Games.
She would also be able to resurrect a popular theme: That the rest of the basketball world is catching up to the United States.
My view: The rest of the world is getting better. So is the United States.
The U.S. went undefeated in these Olympics despite leaving a slew of talented players off their roster.
And while giving two starting jobs and a pile of playing time to veterans Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi.
Bird and Taurasi are great stories who made themselves useful. Bird is a brilliant point guard and organized an offense made of players just learning each others' tendencies. Taurasi played point forward, demonstrating her basketball IQ with her passing.
But neither was particularly efficient during this tournament, and Taurasi was playing through hip pain.
In Paris, Team USA will feature Breanna Stewart and A'ja Wilson, their two most dynamic players, and will still have Brittney Griner, who set a U.S. record for points in a gold medal game with 30 on Sunday.
Stewart is 26. Wilson is 25. Griner is 30.
While the U.S. will miss the savvy of Bird and Taurasi, the team is also producing a remarkable amount of women's basketball talent. Remember, the WNBA All-Stars beat this Olympic team in an exhibition, and it wasn't a fluke. That WNBA All-Star team would have won gold or silver in the Olympics.
The rise in popularity of women's basketball has improved the quality and depth of college basketball. The U.S. will have a massive amount of talent to sort through when choosing its next Olympic roster.
As a four-time WNBA champion and dedicated member of Team USA, Reeve is a logical choice to maintain the USA's dominance, and there are two more Minnesota-based words that bolster this premise:
Imagine Bueckers, entering her prime, running an offense including Stewart, Wilson and some of the young WNBA stars. With her flair and command of the game, Bueckers will be an international superstar.
Imagine this lineup: Bueckers, Stewart, Wilson, Griner and ... just about anyone. Maybe Sabrina Ionescu. Maybe a phenom we don't know about yet. Maybe Lynx star Napheesa Collier, the youngest player on the current U.S. Olympic roster.
Reeve might want Lynx center Sylvia Fowles on that team, to try for her fifth gold medal. Collier makes sense because of her versatility and size. But Reeve will be picking from a treasure chest.
The 2024 team will likely be better than the 2021 team, and the 2021 team coasted to gold.
The U.S. women haven't lost an Olympic game since Greg Gagne was the Twins' shortstop, the WNBA hadn't been born, the North Stars played in Bloomington and Brett Favre had yet to start an NFL game.
One thing the new coach will hope to count on will be the continuing willingness of WNBA stars to accept lesser roles for the good of the national team. Fowles and Collier did that in Tokyo.
"This was amazing,'' Collier said. "Such an unbelievable experience. It felt like we started a little bit rough in Vegas but you really saw us kind of come together and work really hard and work on our chemistry and I'm just so proud of this team and everything we've been able to accomplish.''
Fowles was asked to compare this gold to her other three. "This was somewhat the same but humbling at the same time,'' she said. "Just to see yourself go through that transition of being the youngest and then turning into a veteran, and having the younger players come to you.
"I can definitely say it's been a whirlwind. Plenty of talent, and people just understanding their role, not taking things personal. I think we had to put a lot of egos to the side once we stepped into this thing because we knew we had one goal and that was to win this Olympics, and I think everybody handled themselves well.''