Cremins Jettisons Life Of Leisure

Bobby Cremins eschewed a life of leisure to take the head coaching job at the College of Charleston.
Bobby Cremins eschewed a life of leisure to take the head coaching job at the College of Charleston. (Brad Nattles - The Associated Press)
By On Basketball John Feinstein
Sunday, January 27, 2008

Bobby Cremins was living the life most of us aspire to. He had a house on the beach at Hilton Head and woke up many mornings facing one major decision: "Golf or tennis?"

His golf handicap, once the subject of a lot of kidding among his fellow basketball coaches, dropped from the mid-20s to a legitimate 9. He was keeping his hand in the game by doing ACC games on television -- a little travel, the chance to see old friends and have some fun. He did a lot of charity work, which was occasionally frustrating but for the most part rewarding. He took long walks on the beach.

The perfect life.

There was just one problem.

"I was dying a slow death," he said earlier this week. "I had lost my heart. I thought I'd be out of coaching for one year. I looked up one day and it had been six."

Cremins wasn't a coach who had had some success, lost a job and then had trouble getting back in. He was a historically successful coach at Georgia Tech, taking a program that was buried at the bottom of the ACC when he took over in 1981 and winning the ACC title four seasons later in 1985.

He recruited players such as Mark Price, John Salley, Tommy Hammonds and Kenny Anderson. In 1990, the Yellow Jackets went to the Final Four and scared the daylights out of a Nevada-Las Vegas team that would go on to bury Duke in the championship game.

"Bobby did as good a job as anyone in the country building the program at Tech," said Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski, his friend and longtime rival. "No one ever had a tougher job than what he had when he got there, and no one could have done a better job."

Cremins was 34 when he got to Georgia Tech, 38 when he won the ACC title and 43 when he reached the Final Four. With his easy smile and outgoing personality, along with his distinctive Bronx accent, he was one of the game's hot coaches for a long while. But the escalator stopped going up after the 1993 season. That was the year Cremins was romanced all winter by South Carolina, his alma mater. Amid rumors he was leaving, Georgia Tech won the ACC tournament as the sixth seed, winning in the final over a North Carolina team that would win the national championship three weeks later.

Cremins did take the job at South Carolina soon after that, then changed his mind after three days and went back to Georgia Tech.

"Midlife crisis," he told people back then. "I didn't know what I wanted. But when I got to South Carolina, I knew I had made a mistake. I belonged at Georgia Tech."

Coincidence or not, things were never the same after that. There was a round-of-16 blip in 1996 when Stephon Marbury made a one-season cameo in Atlanta, but after that it was a struggle. At the end of the 2000 season, Cremins resigned.

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