Very few people have a single anecdote that neatly describes the pattern of their entire life experience, but that happens to be one other thing that Bobby Cremins possesses. It is instructive, too, that he tells this on himself:
It seems that when Cremins was an assistant to Frank McGuire at the University of South Carolina about a dozen years ago, James Michener was in Columbia researching a book on sport. McGuire called up Cremins and told him to take Michener around the campus.
Cremins said sure. Inasmuch as he had never read anything more searching than Dick Dunkel's weekly basketball ratings, the name Michener meant nothing to him. "I thought he was a rich alumnus or something," Bobby says.
While leading the guest about, Cremins encountered a friend, and began to introduce the visitor. "I'm sorry," Cremins asked. "What's your name?"
"James Michener," replied James Michener.
The friend gasped. "You? The James Michener?" The writer nodded. The friend went wide-eyed.
"Uh oh. I knew I'd messed up again," Bobby recalls ruefully.
But the rest of the story is this: By the end of the afternoon. Michener had grown enthralled with the strange young man, and to this day carries on a periodic, avuncular correspondence with Cremins. "I mean, they're very long letters," Bobby says. "They tell me things. They're full of thoughts."
Or, if the metaphors of life are not for you, here are the unadorned linear facts. Ten seasons ago, with a new wife and two new daughters that came in the bargain, Cremins became the head coach at Appalachian State, which had gone 3-23 the season before. Appalachian is way up in the mountains of Boone, N.C. "That's where the bears are," Frank McGuire explains. "Even Bobby couldn't get in trouble up there." Cremins and his bride bought a beautiful house on the side of a mountain, with a bubbling brook and an apple orchard. At the closing, Cremins asked the lawyer: "How much more would it cost if I wanted the stream and the trees thrown in?"
Then, the first day of practice, Cremins sidled over to his new assistant, Kevin Cantwell. Cremins, 28 at the time, was the youngest Division I head coach in America, and Cantwell was his junior. "It was a zoo," Cantwell explains. "We didn't know what we were doing." Of course, the two men do share a certain kinship, inasmuch as each of them was born with only one testicle, for a total of two between them. This has won them a number of wagers in saloons, for they would invariably come in under the spread every time, even when there were sharpies about who would figure something was up and call the line at three. But nobody ever played two, total, in the over-under.