Sapakoff: Bobby Cremins, 'inspired' by SMU's Larry Brown, might be open to coaching again
Few college basketball analysts saw this coming. Larry Brown, a spry 73, has quickly rewired the Southern Methodist University program, turning the Mustangs from punch-line to probable NCAA Tournament participant.
"What he's done is remarkable," former College of Charleston and Georgia Tech head coach Bobby Cremins said. "Absolutely remarkable."
John Kresse agrees.
"Larry Brown is one of the great builders of teams, both in college and in the NBA," said Kresse, who led the College of Charleston to four NCAA Tournament trips and three NIT bids from 1994-2002.
At 20-6 overall and 9-4 in the American Athletic Conference in Brown's second year as head coach, SMU was in third place behind Cincinnati (12-1) and Louisville (11-2) going into Wednesday night's home game against Houston.
SMU was No. 23 in the Associated Press poll last week before a loss at Temple.
Cremins, 66, and Kresse, 70, are youngsters compared to Brown, their fellow New Yorker.
So . Any chance of a comeback?
Cremins: Yes, maybe.
Kresse: No, emphatically.
"Larry Brown has definitely caught my attention," Cremins said. "He really has."
Cremins, retired from coaching for the last two seasons, said the door to a return is now "open a crack."
"It would have to be something really special," said Cremins, who lives in Hilton Head. "But Larry has inspired me."
Kresse is more than content to continue in his role as Special Assistant to College of Charleston Athletic Director Joe Hull while dabbling in broadcasting.
"My 38 years in the game of basketball were plenty. But I'm fascinated by the John McKissicks," Kresse said, referring to the 87-year-old Summerville High School football coach still adding to his national record for victories.
SMU hasn't been to the NCAA Tournament since 1993. But people who laughed when Brown first appeared on the Dallas campus are not laughing now. In the latest bracketology updates, ESPN's Joe Lunardi projects SMU has a No. 10 NCAA Tournament seed. Jerry Palm of CBS Sports has the Mustangs squeezing in as a No. 11 seed.
Just another stop for Brown, the ultimate basketball vagabond.
He has coached nine NBA teams and three college teams since 1979.
He won the 1988 NCAA title at Kansas and the 2004 NBA championship with the Detroit Pistons (Brown brought the New York Knicks to train at the College of Charleston when Kresse was the Cougars' head coach).
"I think this is going to make people like (Syracuse head coach) Jim Boeheim, (Duke head coach) Mike Krzyzewski and (San Diego State head coach) Steve Fisher think about sticking around longer," Cremins said. "Normally, the closer you get to 70, that's when you really think about retiring. But now with Larry doing what he's doing, some guys might try and go a little bit longer."
Boeheim is 69, Krzyzewski 67 and Fisher 68 - all older than Bobby "The Kid" Cremins.
Cremins owns a 570-367 record as a head coach. The former South Carolina Gamecocks player led Georgia Tech to three ACC titles and the 1990 Final Four.
Stress not for Kresse
Cremins was 106-60 at the College of Charleston from 2006-2012, but left 20 games into his sixth season for health reasons. Cremins said he is fine now, except for the knee replacement surgery scheduled for just after the basketball season. He is living in Hilton Head and working as a TV analyst for ESPN's Full Court package, which included duty Tuesday night in Blacksburg for Virginia's win at Virginia Tech.
Cremins attended College of Charleston's victory over Drexel last week and plans to be at TD Arena for Senior Night on March 1.
Kresse will be there, too, as the College of Charleston celebrates the 20th anniversary of its first NCAA Tournament berth.
He'll be preparing for a crucial home game against Central Florida.
"Larry Brown is one of the great teachers of the ABCs of basketball," Kresse said. "His teams are just very sound fundamentally. He knows the game and feels the game."
So is Kresse.
But the man whose name is on the court at TD Arena will return to coaching only if college basketball comes up with a new job title.
"I'd love to be a practice coach," Kresse said, "but I'd hate the recruiting and the pressures of the games. You have to recruit, you have to win and the pressure and stress of having to win as many games as possible is something I do not miss."
Bobby Cremins, seven years younger than Larry Brown, isn't so sure.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff