Will Rothschild is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Sun and Southern Conference, and an occasional contributor.
Early in his second season at Georgia Tech, following a 24-point loss to Iona, Bobby Cremins didn’t look like much of a threat to the status quo in the ACC, a league that was in the full bloom of one of its most glorious eras.
Dean Smith was only a few months removed from his first national championship and had a starting five that included the names Jordan, Perkins and Daugherty. Ralph Sampson was in the middle of a third consecutive consensus national Player of the Year season for a powerful Virginia team, and a young thoroughbred named Len Bias had just arrived in College Park to play for a Maryland program that just three years prior had been the class of the league. Meanwhile, some coach with a funny name was just starting to tutor what was regarded as the nation’s best freshman class at Duke, and Jim Valvano was mere weeks away from authoring a story that was as responsible as any for turning the NCAA Tournament into the national obsession that came to be called March Madness.
Cremins, Still Teaching Lessons After All These Years...
Down in Atlanta in January of ’83, it would have been a reach to think Cremins was building something that soon would go toe-to-toe with programs that were the legacy of some of the most legendary names in the history of the sport – Case and Bubas, McGuire and Smith, Bones and Lefty. Within two years, that’s exactly what Cremins had done. After inheriting a program that had won just one of its first 18 games in the ACC, the former team captain for Frank McGuire at South Carolina steered the Yellow Jackets to the 1985 ACC tournament championship – completing a 3-0 season sweep of Smith and the Heels in the title game – and a few weeks later all the way to the Elite Eight, where they fell to Ewing’s Hoyas by six.
Cremins and Georgia Tech had arrived.
Fast forward nearly 27 years, and there was Cremins Saturday night, in the bowels of an ACC arena he had visited nearly two dozen times before as an opposing coach, celebrating his 570th career victory. For the first 30 minutes of the game at Littlejohn Coliseum, his College of Charleston Cougars had thoroughly outplayed Clemson before hanging on for a 72-69 win. In the end, it was another power conference scalp (joining North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee) that Cremins has taken since coming out of retirement in 2006 to start one of college basketball’s more interesting second coaching acts. Just moments after Cremins finished telling the media how his team had just played “as good a basketball as any team I’ve ever coached” in the first half, in came second-year Clemson coach Brad Brownell.
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