July 3, 2006
CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) -When the College of Charleston's first choice for basketball coach "pulled a Bobby Cremins," the Cougars went after the real deal.
The school on Monday officially welcomed Cremins to guide the troubled program. Cremins was thrilled to be back coaching the game he loves.
"This is what I do best," said Cremins, who turns 59 Tuesday. "This is my life."
Cremins hadn't coached since retiring after 19 seasons at Georgia Tech in 2000. He figured he had missed out on this job, too, when the school announced its deal last week with Winthrop's Gregg Marshall.
But a day after Marshall's introduction on Charleston's campus, he took a page from Cremins' past and went back to the Eagles. Cremins 13 years ago reneged on the head coaching job at his alma mater, South Carolina, to return to Georgia Tech.
"Obviously, I can empathize with Gregg," Cremins said to laughter. On Sunday, Cremins had remarked that Marshall had "pulled a Bobby Cremins"
Cremins' hiring caps a strange month at the College of Charleston. It began June 14 with Tom Herrion's dismissal and subsequent $787,000 buyout for the last four years of his contract, followed by Marshall's hello and quick goodbye.
Cremins agreed to a six-year contract with a base salary of $225,000. He is so ready to get started that he'll miss his 59th birthday celebration on Hilton Head Island to organize his new office, ex-College of Charleston coach John Kresse said.
Kresse, who like Cremins is from New York, was part of the school's search committee that interviewed Cremins on Friday and offered him the job soon after.
"Now more than ever," Cremins said, "my drive and enthusiasm are back."
Fans, alumni and supporters turned out at Randolph Hall to welcome Cremins. He got a loud standing ovation when he took the podium, several times trying to quiet the crowd before they settled down.
"It's great to be undefeated," he said.
Charleston made its mark in the 1990s under Kresse, going to four NCAA tournaments and knocking off big time opponents like Maryland, Alabama and Cremins' Yellow Jackets.
"I figured I had John's vote because I helped put John on the map," Cremins said smiling.
Herrion won the Great Alaska Shootout and won 25 games his first season succeeding Kresse in 2002-03. But the team's victory totals fell in each of the next three seasons.
Charleston had hoped for a resurgence under Marshall, a Kresse protege who has gone to six NCAA tournaments in eight seasons at Winthrop. Instead, the Cougars again went with a New York native who found his success in the South.
Cremins twice won 20 games at Appalachian State before going to Georgia Tech. With the Yellow Jackets, Cremins won three Atlantic Coast Conference titles and lured future NBA stars John Salley, Kenny Anderson and Stephon Marbury.
Cremins reached the Final Four in 1990. But in the decade after that, the program slipped and Cremins had three losing seasons in his last four years.
Cremins always thought he'd get another coaching job. But he enjoyed working as a TV analyst and, despite other offers, didn't feel the fit necessary for success.
He finally felt his old basketball coaching spirit rise up the past month. "You can tell he is consumed and energized," Kresse said.
When the offer came, Cremins jumped. "I didn't want to look at the ocean the next 20 years of my life," he said.
A few Charleston players turned out to greet their new coach. Senior Renardo Dickerson said he and his teammates were thankful the monthlong saga was over. "There was a lot of uncertainty," Dickerson said. "Everybody has to do what's best for them, but I expect everybody to come back."
Cremins hopes to field a smart club that looks to push the ball and get easy baskets. He promised to work as hard as he ever has to get it done.
"I can't wait," he said. "I feel like I'm getting a second chance at 59."