Nearly two months after taking a medical leave of absence from the College of Charleston men’s basketball team, an emotional Cremins announced Monday that he was retiring from the game.
The coach’s voice cracked and he fought back tears as he addressed players, friends and administrators on the floor of TD Arena, the Cougars’ homecourt.
“With the blessings of my family, my team, staff, friends, and the College of Charleston, I have decided to retire as our coach,” he said.
The 64-year-old announced Jan. 27 that he would miss the rest of the season and later said he was physically exhausted. He went on an indefinite medical leave of absence but said his condition was not life-threatening.
“It was unfortunate what happened to me in late January. I didn’t like what happened, and I’ll never know why,” Cremins said. “Our bodies sometimes send us signals, so we have to listen.”
Under interim coach Mark Byington, the Cougars finished the season 19-12 and were knocked out of the Southern Conference Tournament in the first round for the first time since joining in 1998. Cremins was in his sixth season with the Cougars after spending 19 years coaching Georgia Tech. He led Charleston to 20 victories in each of his seasons.
Cremins is 579-375 in 31 seasons of coaching, and the Yellow Jackets named their home court for him before he returned to coaching in 2006. He grew up in the Bronx, then came south to play for South Carolina and fellow New York transplant Frank McGuire.
“I loved coaching in the state where I began my college playing career,” Cremins said. “I’ll never be able to thank the late, great coach for bringing me to Columbia in 1965. I loved playing for the Gamecocks.”
Cremins got his first head coaching job at Appalachian State, leading the Mountaineers to the NCAA tournament in 1979.
Three years later, he left for Georgia Tech. He led the Yellow Jackets to nine NCAA Tournament appearances and reached the Final Four in 1990. He also won three ACC Tournament titles and two regular-season crowns before the program tailed off and he was let go after the 2000 season.
Cremins acknowledged feeling “burned out” while at Georgia Tech and sought to re-energize himself when he accepted the head coaching job with South Carolina in 1993. He reneged three days later and returned to the Yellow Jackets for seven more seasons. Cremins has said he sought a psychiatrist’s help recovering from that flip-flop.