LONDON — All at once, years of pressure trapped inside Mike Krzyzewski started to escape.
Finally, Krzyzewski could unleash it. Free it. Let it go.
Suddenly, Krzyzewski's feet did something Sunday not to be confused with a polka.
Surprisingly, Krzyzewski then established a personal-best in the high jump with a giddy leap off the floor before high-fiving Carmelo Anthony and hugging everything that moved.
"I would have loved to have seen him jump," Kobe Bryant kidded.
It wasn't pretty. But what it represented was beautiful for U.S. basketball.
When the celebrating ensued, LeBron James surprised Krzyzewski from behind by dumping two bottles of water on his head. With a doused shirt and moist eyes, Krzyzewski held James for a long hug, two of basketball's most polarizing personalities sharing a moment they always will cherish, a moment the kindred spirits had earned.
America still might not embrace either Krzyzewski or James as tightly as they did each other post-game, but fair-minded people must appreciate what both have done for the sport.
"I was really, really happy," Krzyzewski said of his rare display of adulation. "As a competitor, you're so emotionally into it, I just kind of instinctively reacted that way."
This was no time for Krzyzewski to stop following his instincts. Combined with Krzyzewski's basketball intellect, they have helped make USA Basketball the envy of the international community again.
"He's brilliant," Bryant said.
The "Redeem Team" that recaptured gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics started the process. The 2012 team, short on nicknames but long on desire, completed it Sunday with class. Krzyzewski and Jerry Colangelo, Chicago guys who changed the basketball world, did what they vowed to do when agreeing to join forces in 2005.
Krzyzewski tried leaving his Team USA duties after winning gold in '08. Over a dinner of pizza and red wine in their hometown, Colangelo persuaded him to stay. Colangelo already kidded after the medal ceremony about finding an Italian restaurant to try again.
"I think I'm going to get a great meal out of this," Krzyzewski said, smiling.
The key for whoever coaches Team USA in 2016 will be getting proven players to show an appetite for effort the way Krzyzewski did — the reason Colangelo hired a coaching legend for the job.
Together, Krzyzewski and Colangelo have restored the luster to the USA Basketball brand that had been tainted by a bronze medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics. They did it by assembling a team full of coachable players intent on getting results and showing respect, and not necessarily in that order. They did it the right way, as Krzyzewski likes to say much to his critics' chagrin.
They did it by Krzyzewski getting superstars to leave their egos in America.
"They'll do anything I want them to," Krzyzewski said. "It's always, 'Anything you say, coach.' "
In a rematch of the '08 gold-medal game against a Spain team superior in size, Team USA almost took too long to respond to Krzyzewski's plea for defense. Pau Gasol started making Americans wonder how much damage he would do to Coach K's legacy with 15 of his 24 points in the third quarter, points that brought Spain within one with 10 minutes left.
A 10-2 spurt early in the fourth eased the anxiety but Spain stubbornly pulled within 97-91 when James punctuated basketball's Year of LeBron with a dunk and a 3-pointer. Even more than Kevin Durant's 30 points, James coming through in the clutch the way he hadn't earlier in his career provided the most fitting metaphor for a victory that symbolized fulfillment.
"Since 2006, I've seen him grow immensely," Krzyzewski said of James.
In another part of the arena, the leader of Team USA was making Krzyzewski's point.
For two weeks, the millionaires on Team USA acted like exemplary basketball ambassadors. When Krzyzewski said the other day during a press conference Team USA had two goals — "To win the gold medal and represent U.S. basketball the right way." — it sounded like a corny line out of a Duke brochure. Yet there was James, in all his Olympic glory, humbly deflecting praise the way he obviously had been coached.
"It's about the three letters on the chest," James said. "For us, it's all about the USA."
Not to mention the letter K — as in Coach K — whose stamp was all over their gold medals.