But when Cremins and the Yellow Jackets parted company in 2000, the peripatetic, famously white-haired coach suddenly found himself at loose ends. Living as a retiree at Hilton Head, he found his six years out of coaching (during which time he worked as a TV analyst) boring and frustrating.
Then he discovered golf – or, rather, rediscovered the game, and was bitten by the golf bug with much the same intensity as he had for coaching. During an interview in 2003, he told a reporter that “golf saved my life” or at least his sanity.
“It really filled a void in my life then,” says Cremins, who returned to coaching at the College of Charleston from 2006-2012 before stepping down for good, citing exhaustion. Cremins, who recently turned 67, played so often and with such focus that he got his handicap into the high single digits – this from a guy who admits he once attended the Masters, and fell asleep under a tree.
That was during his USC days, when school booster William Salter, a dentist, introduced him to the game. “I had no idea what I was doing (then),” Cremins says with a laugh.
He also discovered a love of golf’s history while at Georgia Tech, where he learned about the school’s famed alumnus Bobby Jones, founder of Augusta National. “I met people who had known (Jones),” Cremins says. “And Georgia Tech has had great golf teams.” Cremins wound up befriending some of the Yellow Jackets’ best – among them former British Open champions David Duval and Stewart Cink, as well as rising star Matt Kuchar – through former Tech golf coach Puggy Blackmon, now at director of golf at USC.
Since retiring from the College of Charleston, Cremins says he’s able to spend more time on his own game. “I wish I could play better (he’s currently a 13-14 handicap), but every now and then I’m pretty good.”
Highlights have included a near hole-in-one (“one more roll,” he says) at Augusta National, a round of 72 at Atlanta’s East Lake, home to the PGA Tour’s FedExCup Championship, and – during his first “retirement” – playing 27 holes with the late Mickey Mantle. He recently returned from a Georgia Tech-sponsored golfing trip to Scotland, where he played “the Old Course (at St. Andrews), Muirfield (site of this year’s British Open), Troon – it was a really incredible trip. I saw St. Andrews for the first time, and of course you see (references to) Bobby Jones all over the place.”
But while golf continues to fill many hours (Cremins is a member at Sea Pines Resort and plays frequently at Harbour Town Golf Links), basketball has lured him back into its fold. He was invited to work with the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions along with other retired coaches, and “I was intrigued,” he says. “Our main purpose is to help the game of college basketball. (The NCAA) was looking for a different perspective. Most of their committees are without coaches, and I always felt they should have one or two to give them our perspective.”
He laughed. “A lot of my friends got a kick out of (his selection),” Cremins says. “But I’m going forward with it. If it’s not the right fit, then I would drop out.”
After all, whatever else he’s involved doing, Cremins knows that golf will be there for him whenever he needs it.
Hometown: The Bronx, N.Y.
Bio: Played point guard under coach Frank McGuire at South Carolina from 1966-70. After college, was an assistant coach at USC (1973-75), then head coach at Appalachian State (1975-81), Georgia Tech (1981-2000) and, after a six-year hiatus, at College of Charleston (2006-12). Retired with an overall record of 570-367.
Highlights: At 27, became nation’s youngest NCAA Division I head coach at ASU, where he won three Southern Conference titles. At Georgia Tech, was three-time ACC coach of the year and led Yellow Jackets to the 1990 Final Four. After working as a TV analyst, coached College of Charleston 22 or more wins four times; stepped down 11 games into the 2011-12 season, then retired afterward, citing physical exhaustion.
Where I play: “I love the Ocean Course at Kiawah. When I was living in Charleston, I got to know all those courses: Yeamans Hall is really something and so is Cassique, all of those. At Hilton Head, I love Harbour Town, and Long Cove is a great one; so is Colleton River. Heron Point by Pete Dye is very nice, and I want to play there a little more. Around Beaufort, I like Chechessee Creek and Secession.”
Where I eat: “In Charleston, I go to Peninsula Grill and Hall’s Chop House. Charleston has so many great (restaurants). At Hilton Head, I love Red Fish and the Sea Shack, and Kenny B’s; Charlie’s, I really love that place. I haven’t been in Columbia much lately to eat, I’ve been so busy doing stuff for the College of Charleston, but (USC basketball coach) Frank Martin has invited me up to some games this season, so maybe I’ll find out what’s there.”
What I do for fun: “I don’t hunt, and I don’t fish, none of those. What I do love is walking, all over the place. I love to find trails around the state, and in Sea Pines, I enjoy walking on the beach; I need to get my knee back in shape but I love walking when I can. And I do a lot of charity golf outings: Coaches vs. Cancer, the Jimmy V, a lot of those.”