CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Bobby Cremins said this time he is stepping down for good.
Nearly two months after taking a medical leave of absence from the College of Charleston men's basketball team, an emotional Cremins announced Monday he was retiring from the game.
But he struggled to get the words out.
The coach's voice cracked and he fought back tears as he addressed players, friends and administrators on the floor of TD Arena, the Cougars' home court.
"With the blessings of my family, my team, staff, friends, and the College of Charleston, I have decided to retire as our coach," Cremins said.
The 64-year-old Cremins announced on Jan. 27 that he would miss the rest of the Cougars' season and later said he was physically exhausted. Cremins went on an indefinite medical leave of absence but said his condition was not life-threatening.
College of Charleston athletic director Joe Hull said at the time that he planned to speak with Cremins over the next few weeks to determine it the coach will be out even longer.
"It was unfortunate what happened to me in late January. I didn't like what happened and I'll never know why," Cremins said. "Our bodies sometimes send us signals, so we have to listen. The silver lining is that my staff, led by Mark Byington, my team, my school, they had my back and they responded in a special way."
Ten days after his initial announcement, Cremins said on Feb. 6 that he "had no gas" and that his players knew. "They could feel it." He added that while his energy level wasn't where it needed to be, he was "definitely feeling a lot better" at that time.
Under Byington, the Cougars finished the season 19-12 and were knocked out of the Southern Conference tournament in the first round for the first time since joining the league in 1998.
Cremins was in his sixth season with the Cougars when he stepped away in January after spending 19 years coaching Georgia Tech. He has led Charleston to 20 victories in each of his seasons.
The Cougars started this season 10-2 with wins over Clemson and Tennessee, but had lost six of their last eight when Cremins took his medical leave.
Cremins is 579-375 in 31 seasons of coaching, and the Yellow Jackets named their home court for him before he returned to coaching in 2006. He grew up in the Bronx then came south to play for South Carolina and fellow New York-transplant Frank McGuire.
"I loved coaching in the state where I began my college playing career," Cremins said. "I'll never be able to thank the late, great coach (Frank McGuire) for bringing me to Columbia in 1965. I loved playing for the Gamecocks."
Cremins got his first head coaching job at Appalachian State, leading the Mountaineers to the NCAA tournament in 1979.
Three years later, he left for Georgia Tech and the Atlantic Coast Conference. He led the Yellow Jackets to nine NCAA tournament appearances and reached the Final Four in 1990. He also won three ACC tournament titles and two regular-season crowns before the program tailed off and he was let go after the 2000 season.
"Coaching at GT in the ACC conference, coming back to the SoCon where I began my coaching career at Appalachian State was something special," Cremins said. "Incredible journey for me and my family."
Cremins spent the next several years as a college basketball analyst, playing tennis on Hilton Head, until deciding to come back to coaching at the College of Charleston.
The coach acknowledged feeling "burned out" while at Georgia Tech and sought to re-energize himself when he accepted the head coaching job with his alma mater, South Carolina, in 1993. Cremins, though, reneged three days later and returned to the Yellow Jackets for seven more seasons. Cremins has said he sought a psychiatrist's help recovering from that flip-flop.
"Now, I know why I waited six years to get back into it," Cremins said in February.