By Ritchie E. Starnes, News Editor
Tuesday, January 7, 2014 —
“Your fundamentals are not very good. You need work.
“I don’t say that to discourage you.”
Those were the words of former Atlantic Coast Conference men’s college basketball coach Bobby Cremins that greeted about 50 youth basketball players attending Saturday’s camp at West Stanly Middle School.
“Shooting is a lost art,” added Les Robinson, another former ACC men’s basketball coach.
The two former coaches spent the day teaching fundamental basketball to boys and girls, grades fourth through 12th. Saturday’s camp was part of the United States Basketball Association’s Bobby Cremins & Les Robinson Basketball Academy.
In spite of their youth, the coaches, especially Cremins, did not hold back with harsh assessments of the campers’ lack of basic basketball skills.
Neither did Cremins, former head coach at Georgia Tech for 19 seasons and where he guided the Yellow Jackets to the school’s only Final Four appearance in 1990, hold back when assessing the state of college basketball in an interview for The Stanly News & Press.
Both Cremins, 65, and Robinson, 71, former coaching foes and best friends, agreed that the early exit of college basketball players to the National Basketball Association has come at the expense of fundamental basketball while also contributing to the revolving door of success at once dominate programs.
Cremins called the “one and done” exit of talented freshmen bolting to the NBA from college the newest glitch in the ability of a player to better hone his craft while also elevating his college team.
“Basketball is a big-time business,” Cremins said.
“The one and done, the NBA controls that. The NCAA needs to address this. They’re the only people who can change that. They’ll listen to Mike Krzyzewski (Duke) and Jimmie (Jim) Boeheim (Syracuse).”
Cremins acknowledged that the highly-touted freshmen subject to brief college careers often over shadow upperclassmen more committed to fundamental basketball. But, the anticipation and play of the talented freshmen also adds excitement.
“Some of the new freshmen are taking away the notoriety from some of the upperclassmen,” Cremins said.
“They’re getting so much publicity and they’re saving college basketball. I don’t see that changing anytime soon.”
Television and the revenue that it brings to college athletics has contributed to the warts of the game, which includes diminished fundamentals.
“It’s about fancy moves,” Robinson said. “T.V. will show a dunk four times on ESPN, but they don’t show free throws.”
The coaches also agree that conference expansion has had an adverse impact on the storied rivalries that made the ACC so popular and talent-rich.
“I think we’ve forgotten what made college athletics what it is,” Robinson, a former men’s basketball coach and athletics director at N.C. State.
“Geography made the big four (Duke, North Carolina, Wake Forest and N.C. State) what it is. If they were all four hours apart, nobody would care what the other did.
“Geography fuels rivalries and recruiting.”
Cremins said while he initially opposed expansion, he also recognizes the upside.
“I wasn’t a big fan of expansion,” he said. “When Maryland left that disappointed me.
“When I look at whose coming in I was excited. It’s a thing of the future.”
The universities of Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Louisville have joined the ACC as part of the latest expansion. Florida State, Virginia Tech, Miami and Boston College previously joined in an early expansion effort.
Cremins and Robinson talked about how their former ACC programs have faltered in recent years from their glory days.
“My baby is Georgia Tech,” Cremins said. “I love to see them do well.
“Paul Hewitt did a fantastic job, but at the end of his tenure, things got tough.
“Brian Gregory (Georgia Tech’s current head coach) has brought new energy there. He has a good chance to bring it around. I’d like to see Georgia Tech get back in the mix.”
N.C. State, Robinson’s former team and alma mater, inherits the same challenges of recruiting on Tobacco Road, otherwise the heart of the ACC.
“The biggest problem for N.C. State, like when I was there, is the two schools 20 miles away,” said Robinson, referring to the recruiting rivalry with nearby North Carolina and Duke.
Robinson fondly recalls the season (‘91-’92) when he defeated Carolina twice, despite a horrendous season for the Wolfpack program.
When the Wolfpack traveled to the Smith Center for the second contest, he advised his players “not to look above 10 feet,” or the height of the goal. The coach did not want his players to lose focus in the awe of championship banners and the names of former Tar Heel legends of Michael Jordan and James Worthy.
“I told them to just tie them in the first half,” Robinson said. “If they did that, I planned to tell them at halftime to score just one point more. But, they came in one point ahead. So I told our guys to score as many points as they do in the second half. I know we won because of the psychology.”
Before his time with the Yellow Jackets, Cremins started his college head coaching career at Appalachian State (‘75-’81). After Georgia Tech (‘81-2000), Cremins returned to coach the College of Charleston (‘06-’12) before officially retiring from coaching.
Robinson also launched his head coaching duties in the Southern Conference, first at the Citadel (‘74-’85) and then East Tennessee State (‘85-’90) before being named coach at N.C. State (‘90-’96).
The two coaches have remained friends with both now calling South Carolina their home.
Cremins starred at the University of South Carolina as the team’s point guard for legendary coach Frank McGuire, leaving his hometown of the Bronx, N.Y. in ‘66 for the South, although he never lost the thick Yankee accent.
Cremins lives in Hilton Head while Robinson resides on Sullivan’s Island near Charleston, S.C.
For story ideas, call Ritchie E. Starnes at (704) 982-2121 ext. 28 or by email at email@example.com.