Before Cremins, Tech was a wreck

Departing head coach put Yellow Jackets on map, gave them new direction

ACC notebook

February 23, 2000|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

Who is to blame for Georgia Tech's downfall?

Yellow Jackets coach Bobby Cremins has taken full responsibility, announcing Friday that he will resign at the end of the season. But others have argued another side.

"I feel for Bobby," said Tech assistant Mark Price, who was a starting point guard for Cremins in the mid-1980s. "In some ways, he's a victim of his own success. There were no expectations for this program before Bobby Cremins, but he set a pretty high standard. Now that we've had a couple of years below that, everyone is unhappy. It's pretty ironic."

Cremins inherited a program in 1981 that had won two Atlantic Coast Conference games in two years, then guided Tech to the NCAA tournament's Elite Eight less than 48 months later. A Final Four berth followed in 1990.

The league's third-winningest coach became known for his trademark white mop top, navy blazer and yellow tie as much as his high-profile string of point guards like Price, Kenny Anderson, Travis Best and Stephon Marbury. He also will be remembered for his quirky sense of humor, calling into one ACC teleconference while sitting in the tub with a portable phone.

"Bobby is a genuine star," said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who wore a yellow tie Saturday at North Carolina State in honor of Cremins. "He is truly one of the great coaches in ACC history and certainly one of the most-liked. He put Georgia Tech on the map."

Cremins, meanwhile, feels he should have been more prepared over the past four seasons, when Marbury, Dion Glover and high school recruit Al Harrington all opted for the NBA. The Yellow Jackets (11-13, 3-8 ACC) are in danger of their first consecutive losing seasons since Cremins' first two seasons.

However, many still consider Cremins a productive coach. N.C. State athletic director Les Robinson, a close friend of Cremins, told the Raleigh News and Observer that a Memphis official has contacted him about Cremins. Memphis (10-15) is being run by interim coach Johnny Jones.

And the rumors circulating around Atlanta has a possible Tech candidate pool of Philadelphia 76ers assistant and former Massachusetts coach John Calipari, Tulsa's Bill Self and Oklahoma's Kelvin Sampson.

"I think I'll feel better once Georgia Tech lands a quality head coach, and I know the program is in good hands," Cremins said. "Now I can see it's the right time."

One blue Devil

Duke's celebration after clinching a share of its fourth consecutive ACC regular-season title didn't last long.

After Saturday's win at North Carolina State, the Blue Devils later learned that freshman Mike Dunleavy would be sidelined indefinitely with mononucleosis. Dunleavy, the only solid contributor off the Duke bench, was averaging 9.5 points and 4.2 rebounds in 25.2 minutes per game.

The Blue Devils generally use eight players each game, but Dunleavy was the only reserve logging over nine minutes. Dunleavy said he could return in a couple of weeks and play in the ACC tournament.

"It's one of those things you've got to pray on," Duke senior forward Chris Carrawell said. "His health is the most important thing, but we need him back."

Dunleavy has combined with Jason Williams, Carlos Boozer, Nick Horvath, Andre Buckner and Casey Sanders to score 42.2 points per game, the highest average for any freshman class on a regular-season ACC champion.

On the flip side

Virginia coach Pete Gillen took sort of a cavalier approach when asked about his team's uneven argument for an NCAA tournament bid.

The Cavaliers (18-8) sit a half-game behind second-place Maryland in the standings and probably will reach the 20-win plateau during the ACC tournament.

Still, Virginia is only 59th in the latest Ratings Percentage Index. Over the past nine seasons, only two ACC teams have received NCAA bids with RPIs above 40, with Wake Forest's 49 in 1992 being the worst.

"I'm not going to worry about it," Gillen said. "I'm not so good at debating. I was bad at my speech classes. I think we're a serious contender. As a coach, you can't politic."

Not packing it in

Although the drought looks like it will continue for N.C. State, the Wolfpack isn't about to concede anything.

N.C. State has not appeared in an NCAA tournament for the past eight seasons, the longest absence by a league team since at-large bids were instituted in 1980. And the Wolfpack (15-9), which has lost five straight, will only have itself to blame this time.

N.C. State's final three regular-season games are against the ACC's worst teams -- Georgia Tech, Florida State and Clemson. But two of those contests are on the road, where the Wolfpack is winless this year in the league.

Quick quiz

Duke's Carrawell and Nate James are the first players to win or share four ACC regular-season titles in 15 years. Name the last league player to accomplish this four-peat. Hint: He's a North Carolina graduate who may be making his first NCAA Division I tournament as a head coach this year.

Et cetera

The ACC has only three teams in the top 53 in the latest RPI. The highest-rated ACC teams are: Duke (fifth), Maryland (ninth), North Carolina (30th), N.C. State (54th) and Virginia (59th). North Carolina's Ed Cota moved into fifth place among NCAA career assist leaders.

Quiz answer

Buzz Peterson, the current coach at Appalachian State.

Elite company

Georgia Tech coach Bobby Cremins, who announced last week that he would step down at the end of the season, ranks third among the winningest coaches in Atlantic Coast Conference history.

Coach, school Yrs. Record* ACC titles

Dean Smith, North Carolina 36 879-254 13

Mike Krzyzewski, Duke 20 490-158 4

Bobby Cremins, Ga. Tech 19 352-229 3

Lefty Driesell, Maryland 17 348-159 1

Terry Holland, Virginia 16 326-181 1

*-Through Monday's games.

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