Tennis with Cremins, anyone?

Bobby Cremins

Wade Spees

Tennis and the College of Charleston's ebullient head basketball coach are tied love-love, and it's been that way ever since Bobby and Carolyn Cremins' courtship on the court. They were living at the same Columbia apartment complex not long after he completed his basketball career at South Carolina. Lives and rackets intersected.

"We both like tennis and that's how we met," Cremins said. "We played a lot of tennis. Almost every day, I think."

A zillion serves and volleys later, tennis is still part of the couple's life.

Cremins gets much joy out of his favorite participation sport. Funding, too. The fifth annual Cremins Challenge on May 13 and 14 at the Family Circle Cup Tennis Center will help raise money for College of Charleston athletic scholarships.

At first glance, it seems a bit odd.

Making a 63-year-old man work hard in the hot sun so a few more student-athletes have discounted tuition and comp trips to the dining hall?

But Cremins looks forward to this event. To him, the only thing better than the Cremins Challenge is a surprise appearance by some challenging Williams sisters.

"I love playing tennis," Cremins said. "I remember watching the great matches with Bjorn Borg and Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe. And Arthur Ashe. It's a great sport."

Paired with McGinley

Not saying that if you sign up for the Cremins Challenge you will get to play doubles with pro-bound Cougars sharpshooter Andrew Goudelock, but you might find yourself opposite a certain silver-haired coach.

Tread carefully.

Just last Saturday Cremins played in the Charleston County School District's popular Superintendent's Cup Tennis Tournament at the Farmfield Tennis Center.

Cremins was paired with the superintendent herself, Dr. Nancy McGinley. Together, they rolled through the star-studded celebrity division.

It wasn't fair, one "celebrity" columnist complained: Cremins has a funky hesitation serve and McGinley is even better.

"It was fun playing with Nancy," Cremins said after his title. "I'm glad they hit most of the balls her way."

Monica Martin came up with the Cremins tennis tournament idea. Martin, a former Cougar Club director now working with South Car-olina's Gamecock Club, balanced the team competition with plenty of food.

"It has turned out great," Cremins said. "We've had a lot of fun. Friday night is always a blast."

Corky and Sampras

Catering partners this year include Tommy Condon's, Bocci's, A.W. Shuck's, Chick-fil-A and Jim 'N Nick's Bar-B-Q.

You never know what kind of loaded four-player team Cremins will show up with. His Atlanta-based agent, Richard Howell, was a top player at Princeton. Cremins plays regularly with his buddy and former South Carolina basketball teammate Corky Carnevale.

Cremins played with former S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford in '09 at a Legends of Tennis event at the North Charleston Coliseum, a doubles match featuring pros Pete Sampras and Jim Courier.

Corky? Probably.

McGinley? Maybe.

But Sampras is unlikely to participate on Daniel Island next week.

The College of Charleston basketball program just had its best season in Cremins' five years as coach. The Cougars won the Southern Conference regular season championship but lost to Wofford in the league tournament title game.

Tennis will keep Cremins in shape for another run, and Cremins' love for the sport gives all College of Charleston sports a boost.

Reach Gene Sapakoff at gsapakoff@postandcourier.com or 937-5593.