For the first time in over a week, Bobby Cremins answered questions Monday afternoon about his somewhat mysterious and hasty leave of absence, citing physical and mental exhaustion as the reason for stepping away.
On Monday, Cremins addressed a room-full of reporters to dispel any fallacies that may have come about in the days since his abrupt departure. "I had no gas. I was on empty," Cremins said, saying that he is definitely feeling a lot better than two weeks ago but acknowledging that his energy level is still not where it needs to be.
On Fri. Jan 27, Cremins announced that he would be taking an immediate leave of absence to deal with an undisclosed but non-life-threatening illness. Since then, the rumor mill had been churning and there had been much speculation about the seriousness of the coach's health concern.
The 64-year-old coach said he was advised by his doctor to immediately step away from the game or risk hospitalization and long-term health effects. He said that he thought the uncomfortable feeling may have been a stomach ulcer, that he has undergone testing for just about everything, and that he can be certain exhaustion is his only concern at this time. Stating that worrying is part of his DNA, Cremins acknowledged that he felt the problem building for several weeks before his ultimate decision to take a break.
His doctor also advised a heavy dosage of relaxation and exercise while distancing himself from basketball. Cremins, who has been recovering at his home in Hilton Head, says he has played tennis and golf, while also going on regular walks, mostly when the Cougars are playing. "I cannot listen to the games," he said, explaining that his wife, Carolyn, typically watches while he is on his walks and fills him in on how they played – not whether they won or lost.
However, he did confess that he caught the end of the double-OT thriller with Elon last Thursday after arriving home from a long walk a little too early. As usual, he asked his wife how they looked. "She said, 'We're in overtime,' and that's when I said, 'Turn it on,'" Cremins said with a smile. He and his wife watched the rest of the game, admitting that he was very excited for his young group. "I don't know how often I can do that," he said.
While he joked about recovering alongside UConn head coach Jim Calhoun, who used to own a home in Hilton Head and took a leave of absence himself last week to deal with spinal stenosis, the main theme that echoed from Cremins' statement was his overwhelming sense of pride in the Cougars. "I'm so proud of [interim head coach] Mark Byington, our staff, and our players for responding the way they have," he said. He discussed the series of emotional wins and losses that the team has endured since he left and claimed that the group reacting the way they have has lifted his spirit more than anything else.
"Last week was all about me," Cremins continued, recognizing that he could have described the "undisclosed illness" a little better. "Now, the focus needs to be on our team and our program." When asked whether or not he will ever coach again, Cremins swiftly replied, "I have no idea, I'm not even supposed to think about that."
It was evident that the captivating coach is certainly in no rush to get back. "I'm happy right now. I feel good about things," he said, adding that he believes for now, it's very important that he keeps his distance. Like any great coach, though, it will be easier said than done, and Cremins does plan to return to campus occasionally to check in. On Monday, he planned to speak with the team before their practice and visit a few buddies in town before heading back to Hilton Head.
"Hopefully today will put some closure to the Bobby Cremins chapter," he said, still leaving a sense of mystique and drama to this whole string of events.