Bobby Cremins returned to the College of Charleston campus Monday to put to rest rumors about his health and return the focus to the Cougars basketball program.
Looking happy and relaxed, Cremins, 64, said his decision on Jan. 27 to take a medical leave of absence came about because he was "physically exhausted, fatigued and lacked the energy to coach our basketball team."
"This didn't happen overnight. It was building," said Cremins, who said he experienced a similar situation when he was coaching at Georgia Tech. That bout with exhaustion, he said, occurred at the end of the season. "The bottom line is a leader has to be able to lead his team. I recognized I was not able to do that."
Cremins said he underwent medical tests to rule out other health issues. His physician in Charleston, whom he declined to name, told Cremins he needed to step away from the game immediately or risk jeopardizing his health further.
His doctor's orders have been rest and exercise. Cremins said he has played tennis and golf and has been taking lengthy walks while staying at a home he owns on Hilton Head Island. Cremins said he would have liked to stay in town, but his downtown Charleston home is situated too close to TD Arena.
He spent a couple of hours in his office Monday, catching up on emails and visiting with friends before addressing the media. Later, Cremins spoke to the team. He said one of
the highlights of being in town was unexpectedly running into senior Antwaine Wiggins on campus and "seeing the smile on his face."
While keeping his distance from the program, Cremins has kept up with the team's fortunes. Cremins said he has timed his long walks to take place during Cougars basketball games. Upon returning, he would ask his wife Carolyn to tell him not whether the team won or lost but how they played and he could judge from that. His walk last Thursday did not last long enough to cover the two overtimes in the Cougars' 99-98 loss at Elon, so he did listen to the radio broadcast of the final 10 minutes.
Cremins said he is trying to give interim coach Mark Byington room to handle the progam as he sees fit.
The Cougars are 2-2 since Byington took over and 14-10 overall and have six games remaining before the Southern Conference Tournament. Charleston plays host to Western Carolina at 8 p.m. Thursday and faces league-leading Davidson at home Saturday at 3 p.m.
"Mark and I talk almost every day. We do not talk basketball. He's in charge. I basically ask him if there's anything I can do," Cremins said. He added that he has sent text messages to team captain Andrew Lawrence and asked him to forward them to other team members.
"I think it's important I keep my distance. Mark is in charge of all basketball-related issues. I just want to be there if he needs anything.
"The team has helped me the most. This team has played some great basketball. It's so great to see those guys respond the way they have."
Cremins said he didn't know if he would be making any appearances at Cougars basketball seasons the rest of the season.
"I like where I am right now. I'm in a good place," Cremins said. "Right now I'm going to listen to my doctor, continue to focus on getting rest and keep following the team.
"Right now, it's not about me. Right now it's about the team and the program."