ATLANTA -- Forget the NCAA tournament. Bobby Cremins, in a four-day span that concluded yesterday, redefined March Madness.
Cremins announced yesterday that he was returning to Georgia Tech as the head basketball coach. On Wednesday, Cremins resigned from that job to accept the head coaching position at South Carolina, his alma mater.
Wednesday, Cremins said that he wasn't leaving Georgia Tech; he was retiring from Georgia Tech. Saturday, he came out of retirement and left South Carolina wondering who would be its fourth head basketball coach in the last five years.
"I made a mistake and this is the most embarrassing moment of my life," Cremins said in a handwritten statement delivered yesterday morning to his agent in Atlanta, Richard Howell. "The South Carolina reception and press conference was beyond belief. But during the next 48 hours, all I could think about were my Tech players and the Tech program. I felt I had broken my promise and deserted them. Everything I preached to them about, I went against."
His feelings for the school where he played from 1967 to 1970, his college teammates and his college coach, Frank McGuire, were all cited as reasons for his departure when Cremins appeared at a homecoming press conference in Columbia, S.C., last Wednesday.
But yesterday, he promised that his name would never again be associated with any coaching vacancy. Cremins, 45, said he hopes his 12 seasons at Georgia Tech grow into a retirement in Atlanta.
"South Carolina will be my last job consideration and I hope to end my career at Georgia Tech," Cremins' statement said. "Words cannot truly express my feelings at this time."
Cremins called Howell on Thursday to let him know he was having second thoughts about taking the South Carolina job.
"I told him it was just the first day, and that it would be OK," Howell said. "But then on Friday, he had reached the point where he didn't want to wait. I was shocked. I didn't try to tell him what to do. He made the decision."
At 2 a.m. Friday, Cremins called Georgia Tech athletic director Homer Rice and told him that he had made a mistake by leaving Georgia Tech. Cremins asked Rice if he could come back, and Rice told him that he was welcome to return, if South Carolina agreed.
At 10 a.m. Friday, Cremins met with South Carolina athletic director Mike McGee to tell him of his intentions. Cremins had slept little during the previous 48 hours and, according to McGee, was "distraught."
"I promised to be at Tech through their [his players] careers and again, I just couldn't get it out of my mind," Cremins' statement said. "I couldn't do my work and I couldn't sleep. The embarrassment I caused [South Carolina President] Dr. John Palms, Mike McGee, Coach McGuire, the South Carolina players and fans and my South Carolina friends will live with me forever."
According to Georgia Tech's associate athletic director for communications, Mike Finn, Cremins had neither signed a contract with South Carolina nor given the school a binding verbal commitment. Howell said he and South Carolina were having difficulty working out terms.
McGee told Cremins he was free to return to Georgia Tech but asked the coach to sleep on the decision Friday night. McGee said he knew Cremins had talked with Georgia Tech several times; however, he said Rice never called South Carolina's athletic department.
"He had agreed to become our coach, and I received no contact from Georgia Tech for permission to communicate with him," McGee said.
Cremins wife, Carolyn, drove to Columbia from Atlanta and picked up her husband shortly after his meeting with McGee. They returned to the family's home while he finalized his decision.
Yesterday morning, Cremins released the statement.
"As I expected, the South Carolina people were great. The program needs some rebuilding and I hope and pray somebody good will come soon. It is a great opportunity and there are many outstanding young players from the state of South Carolina."
Rice, vacationing at his winter home on Marco Island, Fla., responded yesterday to Cremins' return.
"We're happy Bobby is staying at Georgia Tech," Rice said. "I realize that this has been a very difficult decision for him because it has involved his own school."