Ga Tech’s Cremins Leaves As Winner
ATLANTA (AP) _ Bobby Cremins ran to the center of the court at Alexander Memorial Coliseum, hurriedly blowing kisses in all directions and pumping his fists.
Then, he was gone.
Cremins went out a winner in his final home game as Georgia Tech’s coach but clearly was uncomfortable with the adulation before, during and after an 85-69 victory over Clemson on Saturday.
He briefly acknowledged a raucous, standing ovation from the crowd when the horn sounded, but hastily sprinted toward the tunnel, nearly knocking over a cameraman in the process.
``It’s all been overwhelming. It’s too much,″ said Cremins, who announced his resignation a couple of weeks ago after 19 years as the Yellow Jackets coach. ``There comes a time when it’s time to step aside, go on to the next step. I’m looking forward to that. I really am. I look forward to coming back here and watching the next coach.″
But this was a day for Cremins. Beforehand, he told his players to focus on the seniors’ final home game, but the message was clear when the team stopped in the tunnel on their way to the court.
``We wanted to win this one for coach,″ said senior Jason Collier, who led the Yellow Jackets with 24 points.
Another senior, Jason Floyd, added a season-high 23 points and became the 30th Tech player to eclipse 1,000 points in his career. The Yellow Jackets took control with a 20-0 run and avoided a matchup with No. 4 Duke in the first round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in Charlotte, N.C.
That will be the site of Cremins’ finale at Tech (13-16, 5-11 ACC), unless the struggling team makes an improbable run to the championship.
``I’m real excited we don’t have to play Duke,″ he said. ``I told the players we’re going to stay together until the bitter end. After that, you won’t be able to find me.″
Clemson (10-19, 4-12) clinched last place in the ACC despite Will Solomon’s 30-point effort. None of his teammates managed more than eight points.
Coach Larry Shyatt hugged Cremins in front of the press table and whispered a few words in his ear.
``I told him I wish I hadn’t been the one to give him a present like this,″ Shyatt said, ``but nobody deserves it more in college basketball.″
Cremins didn’t want the school to do anything special for the game, but many fans came dressed in the coach’s trademark outfit from his glory days in the late ’80s and early ’90s: navy blazer, light blue shirt and yellow tie. Some even donned wigs and mops to duplicate Cremins gray hair.
``This is a day I will remember a long time,″ he said. ``This will make retirement nicer.″
Matt Kuchar, a former U.S. amateur golf champion and Georgia Tech senior, was among those wearing the appropriate attire.
``I love Georgia Tech basketball and I love Bobby Cremins,″ Kuchar said from his courtside seat. ``I wanted to show my support one last time. It’s a shame to see him go. He’s such a big part of Georgia Tech and my life. It’s neat to see such an outpouring of love and support.″
During the pregame introductions, Cremins told the public address announcer to ``cut it off″ when he began listing the coach’s accomplishments: winningest coach in Tech history, third-most victories in Atlantic Coast Conference history, 10 trips to the NCAA tournament, four ACC titles and the only Final Four in school history.
All that at a program that went 4-23 the season before Cremins was hired from Appalachian State.
At one end of the court, several fans held up a sign that said, ``We Love U Bobby, 1981-2000.″ Other placards dotted the stands, including ``Bobby, Thanks for the Memories″ and ``Bobby Cremins, A Class Act.″
The Yellow Jackets have fallen on hard times in recent years, reaching the NCAAs only once since 1993. Cremins, 52, decided to resign on Feb. 18, agreeing to finish out the season and accept a $1.5 million buyout for the final three years of his contract.
The state of the program was epitomized by nearly 2,000 empty seats in the 10,000-seat arena dubbed ``Thrillerdome″ during Cremins’ heyday. There was no getting around the fact that this was a game between the two worst teams in the conference.
The Yellow Jackets can finish no higher than a tie for seventh in the nine-team ACC, depending on the outcome of Sunday’s game between Florida State and North Carolina State.
But Cremins’ final home game was about a great career _ not the disappointing way it ended.
``This is a day I will remember for a long time,″ he said. ``This will make retirement nicer.″