With two knee replacements and decades spent on the hardwood, Bobby Cremins walks with a little bit of a hobble. But his silver hair is as floppy as ever, his New York accent as charmingly thick and his personality as bright.
On Friday during the ACC tournament semifinals at the Greensboro Coliseum, the Georgia Tech coaching great will be accorded an overdue honor — being named an ACC legend. Cremins, 67, led the Yellow Jackets to three ACC tournament championships, 10 NCAA tournament berths and its first Final Four appearance.
After taking an in-season medical leave for exhaustion, he retired from the College of Charleston after the 2011-12 season, ending a 31-year coaching career.
He spoke Thursday with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution about, among other things, his life post-retirement, his memories and Tech. The answers were edited for brevity and clarity.
Q: How is your health?
A: Good. Great. I’m doing great. I’m enjoying life, trying to stay busy. I do a lot of stuff. I’m on an NCAA committee (infractions, offering a former coach’s perspective), I do a lot of media stuff. I do a Sirius XM inside college basketball show. I do some games for Raycom. I do speaking, clinics. … I love playing my golf. I’ve given up tennis. I had my second knee replaced. I decided to hold off on tennis. I miss it. I walk and I play golf. That’s my exercise.
I read a lot. I’m thinking about writing a book. Everybody wants me to write a book. I’m just thinking about it. But I love reading. My new joy in my life is my new grandson. He lives in Philadelphia. That’s been a great joy for me. Just trying to enjoy life. But I’ve got all my health back. I’m 100 percent.
Q: What does it mean to you to be named an ACC legend?
A: It’s good. I like it when the players (are named). I’ve been to this event several times for my players (from) Georgia Tech, and it’s been fun. They really enjoy it. The league treats everybody first class.
Q: I understand that you had been asked before but you wanted your players to get the honor.
A: I’ve had so many accolades. I don’t need any more accolades in my life. I’m very content with everything that I’ve received. Of course, having my name on the floor at Georgia Tech, you can’t have a higher honor. I’ve had all the honors and accolades that I need. As a matter of fact, when they called me, I said, “I’m finished with all that.” They said, no, it was important. And so I said OK.
I just figured I’m finished with that. But it’s true — I’ve said this many times — the older you get, the better you were. When you think about it, 19 years (coaching) in this league and having played in the league, I do have ACC blood. I really do.
Q: What’s your overriding memory of winning the ACC tournament in 1985 at the old Omni?
A: It was in Atlanta, so that helped us. The Tech fans, they came out of everywhere. And, of course, we had to beat North Carolina for the third time (that season). We were nervous. We were a nervous group. (Mark) Price and (John) Salley were nervous. I was nervous. But we played. We just went out and played. And, of course, Price was sensational. (Bruce) Dalrymple was outstanding. We had great kids. They fought hard.
Q: Is the tournament tougher than it was before?
A: It’s different. I’m trying to get a feel for it. I hate that the fans have to come on Tuesday (for first-round games). (Commissioner) Johnny Swofford’s a great leader. When this conference expansion started and we lost Maryland, everybody had to take the gloves off and get after it. And Johnny had to get real aggressive to save the conference to somehow make it better. Because the Maryland thing, that was a shocker, and there were rumors that other teams were going to follow. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t get over it.
So Johnny basically had to save the conference, and he did it by getting these other teams (to join). And it’s different, but it’s working. We got back the respect that we’d lost, and I think it’s great. I really do. Considering the landscape of college basketball today, I think the ACC’s in great position.
Q: What are your thoughts about where Tech is now?
A: I love the way they played Tuesday (in a 66-65 loss to Boston College). I think the bottom line, I think they’re snakebitten. I don’t know if it’s because it’s Georgia Tech, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a team that’s lost so many tough games. I like Brian Gregory a lot. It’s been incredible, and I was so happy the way they were playing Tuesday, and then right at the end once again (they lost the lead), and then they get a great shot (to win, which missed). I know it’s got to be painful for them. It’s got to be.
I wish Brian nothing but the best. Whatever happens, I’ve enjoyed his teams, supporting him. But that’s between Brian and the administration. (Athletic director) Mike Bobinski and (school president) Dr. (Bud) Peterson and Brian. That’s none of my business, but I like Brian and I support Brian, and I want to see Georgia Tech do well. I really do, and I know Brian does.
But I was very proud of them Tuesday. Without (injured forward) Marcus Georges-Hunt, they outplayed Boston College for 39 minutes, maybe 39 1/2 minutes. It is what it is. It’s so difficult because if they win half of those games, everything’s fine.
Q: What’s the name of your book going to be?
A: If I write a book, it’d be “My journey with the game I love.”