AP Sports Writer
|Georgia Tech head coach Bobby Cremins reacts to a call during play against Clemson in Atlanta Saturday, March 4, 2000. It was Cremins last home game after a 19-year career at Tech. Georgia Tech won 85-69. He announced he would step down at the end of the season at a Feb. 18, 2000 news conference. (AP Photo/Ric Feld)|
ATLANTA (AP) (Mar. 4) – On a day when thousands came dressed as Bobby Cremins, the Georgia Tech coach went out a winner in his final home game.
Jason Collier scored 24 points, Jason Floyd added 23 and the Yellow Jackets took control with a 20-0 run in the first half for an 85-69 victory over Clemson on Saturday to give Cremins a fitting sendoff after 19 years as coach.
When the horn sounded, Cremins ran to the center of the court, pumped his fists and blew kisses to the cheering fans at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. But, clearly uncomfortable with all the adulation, he abruptly sprinted off the court, nearly knocking over a cameraman as he departed.
Cremins didn’t want the school to do anything special for his final game in Atlanta, but many fans came dressed in the coach’s trademark outfit from his glory days in the late ’80s and early ’90s: navy blazer, light blue shirt and yellow tie. Some even donned wigs and mops to duplicate Cremins disheveled gray hair.
“It’s all been overwhelming. It’s too much,” said Cremins, who presided over the rise and fall of Tech’s program. “But there comes a time when it’s time to step aside, go to the next step. I’m looking forward to that. I really am. I look forward to coming back here and watching the next coach.”
During the pregame introductions, Cremins told the public address announcer to “cut it off” when he began reeling off the coach’s accomplishments: winningest coach in Tech history, third-most victories in Atlantic Coast Conference history, 10 trips to the NCAA tournament, four ACC titles and the only Final Four in school history.
All that at a program that went 4-23 the season before Cremins was hired from Appalachian State.
The Yellow Jackets (13-16, 5-11 ACC) have fallen on hard times in recent years, reaching the NCAAs only once in the past six years. Cremins, 52, decided to resign with two weeks left in the regular season, accepting a $1.5 million buyout for the final three years of his contract.
The state of the program was epitomized by nearly 2,000 empty seats in the 10,000-seat arena dubbed “Thrillerdome” during Cremins’ heyday. There was no getting around the fact that this was a game between the two worst teams in the conference.
Clemson (10-19, 4-12) clinched last place despite Will Solomon’s 30-point effort. The Tigers will meet top-seeded Duke in the first round of the ACC tournament on Thursday.
The Yellow Jackets can finish no higher than a tie for seventh in Cremins’ final season, depending on the outcome of Sunday’s game between Florida State and North Carolina State.
But at least Tech doesn’t have to face Duke in the first round of the tournament in Charlotte, N.C., which will be the site of Cremins’ final game with the Yellow Jackets unless they make an improbable run to the championship.
“I told the players we’re going to stay together until the bitter end,” Cremins said. “After that, you won’t be able to find me.”