Bobby Cremins recalls his first meaningful encounter with Ben Roth.
In Cullowhee, N.C. A chilly night in December. It was 2006, Cremins' first season as College of Charleston head coach.
"He was sitting behind our bench before the game," Cremins said. "We didn't have many fans there that night, so I went over to him and said, 'You're quite a fan' and thanked him for coming."
The Cougars won the game. Roth, who had been traveling to Cougars games since the John Kresse glory days, kept coming and struck up a relationship with Cremins based on their New York roots.
Roth, 78, will be in the front row today when the College of Charleston plays host to Furman in a key Southern Conference game. He regularly commutes from his Johns Island home to the pharmacy he owns in Manhattan. He does not return to the Lowcountry empty-handed, always importing mammoth pastrami and corned beef sandwiches from New York's famed Carnegie Deli.
A sandwich roughly the size of a mailbox finds its way into Cremins' refrigerator.
"It's real cool," Cremins said. "One sandwich lasts me about two weeks because they're so big.
I bring them home and put them in the freezer. Ben brings that New York mustard, too."
In this Meeting Street episode
of "Man vs. Food," the basketball coach somehow resists the offer of enormous chunks of cheesecake.
Which is just as well for Patricia Roth, Ben's wife.
"If I'm going up to New York to visit," she said, "Ben makes me drag 30 pounds of sandwiches through the airport."
Cremins prefers rye bread.
"Growing up in New York as a kid, I couldn't afford to eat there," Cremins said. "But what's good about a Carnegie Deli sandwich is you can make about five sandwiches out of one. I think one time I had a sandwich that lasted me a month."
Roth was there for Cremins' first bite of imported Carnegie smoked meat.
"He lost his mind," said Roth, a graduate of City College of New York and Columbia University.
Across from Carnegie Hall at 7th Avenue and 55th Street, the deli opened in 1937. Its Wall of Fame is a collection of autographed photos from celebrity sandwich endorsers.
Roth was the tour guide when the entire College of Charleston team ate at the Carnegie Deli before the Cougars played Fordham in The Bronx.
"Only one person was able to finish his sandwich and that was (assistant coach and former Florida State forward) Andrew Wilson," Roth said. "It's something I've never seen done before and might never be accomplished again."
Tennis and mustard
Amazingly, Cremins and Roth are able to keep away from the leftovers long enough to do battle on the tennis court.
"I kick Bobby's butt in tennis," Roth said with a roar. "Even my wife Patricia kicks his butt. What we do is we invite Bobby and his friend Corky Carnevale over to our house on Headquarters Island and we play doubles. We kick their butts, then we feed them."
Pass the mustard.
Roth, never shy, won't lie to you: He knows basketball. New York City basketball history, in particular. He knows all about Cremins' pre-University of South Carolina high school days and first met Kresse as a St. John's assistant coach 35 years ago.
"I help Bobby out coaching, too," Roth said with a laugh. "He couldn't do this without me."
The power of pastrami goes a long way. Almost from here to the Southern Conference tournament.