Tuesday, February 26, 2008

CofC Lose on the road to the Spartans

GREENSBORO, NC – UNC Greensboro had only four players hit the scoring column, but three went for more than 20 as the Spartans topped College of Charleston, 75-67, in Southern Conference men’s basketball action at Fleming Gym on Thursday night.

The Spartans set a school record by shooting 84 percent from the floor in the second half, going 16-for-19. They made their first 10 shots of the half to erase a seven-point second half. Mikko Koivisto led the way with a career-high 25 points for UNCG (16-11, 10-8), which clinched the final bye slot in the upcoming Southern Conference Tournament with the win.

Kyle Hines had 23 points and eight rebounds for UNCG to extend his streak of games with 10 or more points to 77 in a row. The All-America candidate from Sicklerville, NJ also had three blocks and four steals. Kevin Oleksiak also had 22 points for the Spartans.

It was just the second time in UNCG’s Division I era that three Spartans topped 20 points in the same game. The only other time that happened was in an overtime loss to NC State last January.

The only other Spartan to score was Ben Stywall with five points, all of which came in the final 15:34.

Jermaine Johnson led the Cougars (12-16, 7-11) with 18 points and eight rebounds. Andrew Goudelock added 12 points and Donovan Monroe chipped in with 11 points for College of Charleston.

For the entire article courtesy of UNC-G athletics (click here)

Monday, February 25, 2008

From the Post & Courier: "Cougars' Cremins: 'No time to get down'"

By Charles Bennett
The Post and Courier

Even though the College of Charleston is coming off a heartbreaking 87-86 double overtime loss at Elon, Cougars coach Bobby Cremins says he expects his team to bounce back with a big effort tonight at UNC Greensboro.
"We've just got to stay up, stay motivated," said Cremins.
"We've obviously been knocked around, but this is no time to get down. We've got three more games and then we go into the (Southern Conference) Tournament. These last three games, we really want to play well."
The Cougars (12-15, 7-10 SoCon) played well enough to win at Elon, shooting 50.7 percent from the field and committing only 11 turnovers after averaging nearly 20 turnovers in their previous three games.
"We played better, we just didn't catch a break," Cremins said. "We played well enough to win. It was a heck of a ball game. I felt bad for our guys. It was a tough one."
Breaks may be hard to come by once again when the Cougars take on the Spartans (15-11, 9-8 SoCon) at 7 p.m. tonight.
The last time the two teams met, UNC Greensboro power forward Kyle Hines scored 32 points and the Spartans shot 66.7 percent from the field in an 88-71 victory over the Cougars Jan. 24 at John Kresse Arena.

"We've got Kyle Hines and company and of course they beat us up the first time," Cremins said. "They played one of their best games of the year against us."

One positive for the Cougars is that tonight's game is the final road game of the season for Charleston.

The Cougars wrap up the regular season with home games against Georgia Southern on Thursday and Furman on Saturday.

The SoCon Tournament begins March 7 at North Charleston Coliseum.
But Cremins says he hopes to keep his team motivated with the games remaining.

"We have no choice but to stay up," he said. "We're playing not only for now but for the future. The tournament will be our postseason. We know that, but we want to take these last three games as a chance to start playing well heading into the tournament."

Sunday, February 17, 2008

From the Post & Courier: Cougs fall to WCU

Western Carolina 65, Charleston 57

The College of Charleston's up- and-down basketball season took another downward turn Saturday at John Kresse Arena.

The Cougars shot 35.3 percent from the field and committed 21 turnovers in a 65-57 Southern Conference loss to Western Carolina.

"It's not as bad as it could be, but it was a bad loss," said guard Andrew Goudelock, who led the Cougars with 15 points. "We could have won this game, should have won this game. Down the stretch we didn't make plays. We have no one to blame but ourselves."

Charleston (12-14, 7-9 SoCon) was coming off a 79-73 victory over Chattanooga Thursday night, while the Catamounts (8-17, 4-11 SoCon) were coming off a 57-51 loss to The Citadel, previously winless in the conference.

"We really made a commitment to fight for the whole 40 minutes this game and to respond after our poor showing on Thursday," said Catamounts' forward Jake Robinson. "We had two rough days thinking about that loss."

The Catamounts didn't exactly come out with guns blazing, shooting 39.3 percent from the field, but they got 25 points from guard Brandon Giles and seemingly made every big play down the stretch.

The Cougars play at Elon at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

3-Point Goals — Western Carolina 5-16 (Gore 0-1, Giles 2-7, Waginger 0-2, Robinson 3-6); C of C 6-15 (Scott 0-3, Wiggins 1-3, Goudelock 3-3, White 2-4, Monroe 0-1, Hammond 0-1). Steals — W. Carolina 10 (Giles 4); C of C 5 (Scott, Johnson 2). Blocks — W. Carolina 3 (Gordon, Giles, Wilson); C of C 5 (Scott 3). Turnovers — W. Carolina 8 (Wilson 3); C of C 21 (Scott, Johnson, White 4). Technicals — W. Carolina 1 (Waginger). A — 3,104.

Click here for the entire article by Charles Bennett.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Dwight Howard (aka: Superman) Wins the Slam Dunk Contest!

AJ Traded to the Kings for Bibby

A.J. is now a King
The eighth place Atlanta Hawks sent starting point guard and College of Charleston alum Anthony Johnson, 2007 first-round pick Shelden Williams, backup point guard Tyronn Lue, veteran forward Lorenzen Wright and a 2008 second-round pick to the Kings for Mike Bibby. The same Bibby who had one heck of a game to end the College of Charleston's big dance, after the Cougars upset Maryland and then lost a close one to Arizona in the 1997 NCAA Tournament.

Click here for the story on ESPN

The Cougs Face Western Carolina tonight at 6 pm.

The College of Charleston Cougars (12-13, 7-8 SoCon) will host the Catamounts (7-17, 3-11 SoCon) of Western Carolina tonight at 6 pm at the Kresse Arena. Game coverage will be on WTMZ 910-AM. The Cougs have won 9 straight against WCU, including an exciting win last December in Cullowhee and their coach Larry Hunter is 0-4 against the Cougars.

(Photo courtesy of the Catamounts' sports web-site)

See you at the game!

From the Post & Courier: Cougars have eye on a bye

The College of Charleston is plodding along with a 7-8 record in the Southern Conference, and today's 6 p.m. game at John Kresse Arena with Western Carolina may not seem so important in the grand scheme of things. (Photo of Andrew Goudelock and Tony White Jr dancing courtesy of Alan Hawes w/ the Post & Courier)

But it is to Cougars' coach Bobby Cremins, who would like his team to play well enough down the stretch to earn a first-round bye in the Southern Conference Tournament.

"The most important thing for us is we're still fighting for a bye, so every game is crucial," Cremins said. "We're still in this thing. We have a shot."

The top five teams in the 11-team Southern Conference earn first-round byes in the tournament, to be held March 7-10 at North Charleston Coliseum.

Davidson (16-0) has already clinched the No. 1 seed, and Appalachian State (11-5), Georgia Southern (11-5) and Chattanooga (10-6) are likely to occupy the next three spots, leaving one more bye up for grabs.

In addition to Charleston, the main contenders for the fifth seed are Elon (8-9), Wofford (7-9) and UNC Greensboro (7-7).

After today, the Cougars have road games at Elon and UNC Greensboro before finishing the regular season at home against Georgia Southern and Furman.

The Cougars are 1-3 against those four teams this season, so Charleston would do well to take care of business today against Western Carolina (7-17, 3-11 SoCon).

The Catamounts are winless on the road this season, and have lost nine consecutive games to Charleston.

However, Western Carolina gave the Cougars all they could handle earlier this season when Charleston escaped with an 86-84 victory at Cullowhee, N.C., on Dec. 1.

"Western is a very dangerous team," Cremins said. "We can't take them lightly, for sure. We've just got to come out here Saturday night and play some basketball."

--Cougars' small forward Antwaine Wiggins, who suffered an ankle sprain in Charleston's victory over Chattanooga Thursday night, is listed as probable. Cremins said the Cougars will move guard Marcus Hammond into Wiggins' spot if Wiggins is unable to go.

Reach Charles Bennett at cbennett@postandcourier.com.

Friday, February 15, 2008

I Love the Maroon Nation this Much!

Photo of Coach Cremins showing his love courtesy of Alan Hawes/Post & Courier

From the Post & Courier: C of C weathers the run and gun of Chattanooga

More isn't always better, and Chattanooga proved it Thursday night against the College of Charleston. (Photo of Antwaine Wiggins laughing at Kevin Bridgewater selling the foul courtesy of Alan Hawes/Post & Courier)

Chattanooga took 82 shots — but missed 54 of them — and the Cougars escaped with a 79-73 Southern Conference victory at John Kresse Arena.

"I've never played a team that shot 82 times," said Charleston junior forward Jermaine Johnson. "That's a lot of shots. That just lets you know that they're a run and gun team, and it also lets you know that we played some defense."

Charleston (12-13, 7-8 SoCon) held the Mocs (15-11, 10-6 SoCon) to 34.1 percent shooting from the field, but still had to battle to get the victory.

The Cougars made 11 of 14 free throws in the final three minutes.

"Things got a little hairy there at the end," said Cougars coach Bobby Cremins. "We had to make some clutch free throws. We're a young team, and you never know what's going to happen, but it was a gutty performance and a great win."

The Cougars lost 86-70 at Chattanooga on Dec. 18 after hurling up a school- record 39 3-pointers, making 10.

Charleston took a more balanced approach Thursday night, making 24 of 54 shots from the field, including 10 of 26 from 3-point range.

Guard Andrew Goudelock scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half. Backcourt mate Tony White Jr. also finished with 17 points and was 8-of-8 from the free throw line.

Jermaine Johnson finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

"I kind of refocused at halftime," said Goudelock. "I got some good open looks, and fortunately, I made them."

Despite poor shooting, Chattanooga kept things close by forcing 20 turnovers and getting to the offensive boards 19 times.

"They're probably the best rebounding team in our conference," Johnson said.

"They really get to the glass. We just came out and did what we had to do."

Charleston led by as many as 14 points in the second half, but saw the lead dwindle to three with 1:22 to play.

But the Cougars clamped down defensively from there and put the game away at the free throw line.

"I had no idea they took 82 shots," Goudelock said. "Good thing they were missing them. Usually the team that takes the most shots wins."

Charleston led 35-30 at the half after outshooting the Mocs 46.4 percent to 33.3 percent.

The Cougars waxed hot and cold in the first half, and helped keep it close with 12 turnovers.

Charleston started the game on a 9-0 run, only to be outscored 15-2 over a four-minute span.

The Cougars managed to regain the lead and push the margin back to nine with 1:36 to play, but the Mocs scored the last two baskets of the half to close the gap to five.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy V-Day-Cougs Win!

Happy v day Cougs win by 6, beating UT-Chattanooga 79 to 73!

If you are wondering why there are so many prematurely gray-haired gents in the crowd...

(Game-time coverage) It's because the Cougars have just let UT-Chattanooga back in the game. Here is a picture of Andrew Goudelock at the line. Jermaine is having a "Shaq" night from the Charity-Stripe, but everyone else, especially TW-Jr. is taking advantage of the opportunities.

The officials are a nightmare. That's right, I said it. The three-amigos are killing me, I am not sure if they just don't know what a "walk" looks like unless the offender has a white-jersey on, but the zebras are definitely keeping the Moccassins in the game-good bye 10 point lead, hello down to the wire. (For the record: the dark haired guy next to me just had around 50 gray hairs pop-out.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

An apology for the "dueling banjos" comment

And what pray tell would cause us here at the CofC Sports Fan to post an apology, the answer is 6-year veteran and co-captain of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleaders squad, 29-year old Leigh Killian a 1999 graduate of Appalachian State and a recent guest on Late Night with Conan O'Brien. A correctional probation officer by day and a cheerleader on the weekends makes this High Point, NC native quite an interesting woman. Our bad Leigh.

Link to the Professional Cheerleader Blog for the entire article

College of Charleston selected as #1 in SoCon Coaches' Preseason Poll

Preseason Poll
1. College of Charleston (5) 86
2. Western Carolina (3) 77
3. Georgia Southern (2) 70
4. Elon 68
5. The Citadel 55
6. Appalachian State 54
7. UNC Greensboro 51
8. Wofford 33
9. Furman 27
10. Davidson 19
Coaches were not permitted to vote for their own team.

First Team
Catcher—Blake Murphy (WCU), First Base—Jeremiah Parker (GSU), Second Base—Tim Carrier (UNCG), Shortstop—Michael Gilmartin (WOF), Third Base—Isaac Harrow (ASU), Outfield—Michael Harrington (C of C), Outfield—Chris Swauger (CIT), Outfield—Barrett Shaft (WCU), DH—Andrew Franco (ASU), Pitcher—Drew Saberhagen (WCU), Pitcher—Steven Hensley (Elon), Relief Pitcher—Garrett Sherrill (ASU)
Second Team
Catcher—Richard Jones (CIT)
First Base—Michael Kohn (COFC)
Second Base—Shane Kirkley (WOF)
Shortstop—Jason Altenhof (ASU)
Third Base—Nick Liles (WCU)
Outfield—Sonny Meade (CIT)
Outfield—Chris Shehan (GSU)
Outfield—Pat Irvine (Elon)
DH—Kyle Blackburn (GSU)
Pitcher—Ben Austin (WOF)
Pitcher—Tyler Sexton (WCU)
Relief Pitcher—Chris Masters (WCU)
(Source: the Post & Courier)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

From The Post and Courier: Davidson 81, College of Charleston 56

League-leading Wildcats once led Cougs by 34
By Charles Bennett
DAVIDSON, N.C. — With time waning in a blowout victory over Charleston, Davidson coach Bob McKillop sent in his subs, including his seldom-used son Brendan. McKillop could have played his grandmother, had she been available. Davidson showed once again why it is the best team in the Southern Conference, handing the Cougars an 81-56 loss at Belk Arena, their worst league loss in history and the worst overall since a 92-65 loss to eighth-ranked Kentucky in 1996.

"They're like Duke when I was in the ACC," said Charleston coach Bobby Cremins.
"Duke could just beat the hell out of anybody. They're the Duke of the Southern

For more of Charles Bennett’s article click here for the link.

From the Den: After beating Appalachian State, 68-63, on Thursday night, College of Charleston (11-13, 6-8 SoCon) there was a modest amount of anticipation for the game against Davidson (17-6, 15-0 SoCon) but as Coach Cremins said, “They’re the Duke of the So-Con” and the Wildcats have that same “Dukeness” (i.e. excellent perimeter shooting, solid fundamentals: passing, shooting and ball movement) basically good from the top-down.

I watched the game late on CSS Sports and the Cougars played well, and the only advice that I could give our young Cougars is that “they just need to take the easy shot; our starting five are trying way too hard and are trying to force it. College basketball is not that difficult: play-hard, pass-efficiently, and be patient for the open (and easy) shot. And before you lace up those shoes, know that you are a College of Charleston Cougar and you should play like one, think like a winner and the wins will come. Don’t be scared of teams like Davidson with their ugly mascot, pre-pube point-guard and Capt Hair-do of a coach because no matter what the chatter says about our disappointments this season, at least we didn’t lose because we quit. Keep clawing your way up Cougs, Keep clawing your way up.
(Photo courtesy of Rotorob.com)

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Wishful thinking?

The Cougs will face off against Davidson at 3 pm, you can catch it on CSS (Comcast Sports-South) Special thanks to the kids at Daphne High School in Daphne, Alabama for keeping our spirits up.

Friday, February 8, 2008

College of Charleston beats Appalachian State 68 to 63

From the Post & Courier:

BOONE, N.C. — The College of Charleston has had its share of heartbreaking losses this season, so perhaps it was only fitting that the Cougars would earn a heartwarming basketball win.

Trailing by five points, Charleston outscored Appalachian State 10-0 over the final 2:12 of the game to beat the Mountaineers 68-63 Thursday night at the Holmes Center.

"This is the biggest win of the season for us by far," said Charleston coach Bobby Cremins. "It looked like we were going to lose another close one, and finally the breaks went our way. I'm really excited."

Charleston (11-12, 6-7 SoCon) had lost at home to Appalachian State (14-8,

9-4) 70-66 in Charleston on Jan. 3, a victory that jumpstarted the Mountaineers to nine victories in their last 10 games. Meanwhile, the Cougars struggled and went 4-5 over the same span.

But on Thursday night, Charleston made all the plays down the stretch against the Mountaineers.

Andrew Goudelock, who led the Cougars with 19 points, made a jumper with 25 seconds to play to put Charleston ahead 64-63.

After a Mountaineers' turnover, Charleston guard Tony White Jr., an 82 percent free throw shooter who missed the front end of a one-and-one in the closing seconds of the Cougars' 67-66 loss at Wofford on Jan. 28, made two free throws with 14.5 seconds to play for a 66-63 Charleston lead.

Charleston forward Jeremy Simmons, a 56 percent free throw shooter, made two free throws with 6.6 seconds to play for the coup de grace.

"I can't say enough about our team," Cremins said. "I'm just really excited abut this victory. This is what we needed. We needed something good to happen. Finally, when it looked like we were going down for another defeat, the breaks went our way. We got a tremendous win. Now we've got something to build on."

The Cougars missed 12 of their first 13 3-pointers, but made their next two to lead 30-27 at the half.

The game started out close and stayed that way in the first half , with neither team leading by more than three points.

An 8-0 run to start the second half put the Cougars ahead 38-27 with 18:33 to play, but the Mountaineers rallied to get back in the game.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Cougs travel to the "Dueling Banjos Arena" to take on Appalachian State tonight!

The College of Charleston Cougars travel to Boone, North Carolina tonight to take on the App State Mountaineers. The Mountaineers squeaked out a four point victory over the Cougars in the last meeting between the two schools on January 3rd. Game time is at 7 pm and will air here in Charleston on WTMZ 910-AM.

Recon: App State’s guard Kellen Brand was wheeled off the court in a stretcher late in their game last Saturday against Western Carolina, Brand is noted as having received a “slight” concussion, and although concussed, Brand is expected to play in tonight’s game. Forward eremy Clayton has been hot recently, blocking six shots and pulling down a career-high 17 rebounds against Elon on January 28th, on his way for a double-double with 12 points. Forward Donte Minter was out with the flu against Elon, but was back in the following game against Western Carolina scoring 13 points (team high) for the Mountaineers. Finally, ASU guard Donald Sims really started to make an impact for the Mountaineers in January with 34 assists and 12 turnovers for the month, giving him a 3 to 1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Although, the App State has seven games which were decided by five points or less this season, ASU is 5-2, and a major threat in the SoCon, combined with a two-game win streak, the College of Charleston needs to play tight defense (especially in the paint) if we want to come home with a win on the road and continue our one-game win streak.

(Photo courtesy of pizzaz.net)

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Hitler's Gamecocks Video

All right, so when Mel sent me this, I didn't want to post or watch this video of the changed sub-titles since I'd already posted the Cowboys' video on the Bushido. Well, that and I didn't want the folks in the next office to think that I was fuhrer fan, but this video is pretty funny and they don't misspell "lose" in this clip, so it was that much better. Funniest part-I'd say the Bobby "Cremins' wigs from '93" that A.H. can only sell when the drag show comes to town. Quite clever, and I am sure there will be more schools jumping on board.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Cougs Beat The Citadel 63-48!

Tony White Jr. scored 17 points, Andrew Goudelock added 12 points and Jermaine Johnson and Jeremy Simmons each added 10 rebounds and six points to lead the College of Charleston to a 63-48 win over The Citadel last night. The Cougs’ other big man, senior Konimba Diarra also had six points and three boards in the much needed win. Translation: the Cougs are becoming a little more balanced, but are still focused on their perimeter shooting.

From the Den:

When I saw the stat, “Charleston had 38 rebounds, nine more than The Citadel” on CBS Sportsline, I was quite surprised. If you went to the game, I am sure you heard various members of the Maroon Nation lament, “Get the rebound!” throughout the game. In fact, it was the lack of tenacity on the boards in the second half that let the Bulldogs back into the game! Come on Cougs, the SoCon Tourney is less than a month away and both defensive and offensive boards pay-off huge dividends when it comes to the final score. Remember, the play is not over after the ball leaves the shooters hand and the ball is still alive until it drops through the netting. If you are at half-court (what some people call overly anxious transition defense) while the ball is still in the air, your chance of getting a rebound and second chance “put-in” is naught.

Shooting Percentages

The Cougars shot 49 percent (25-of-51) from the field, compared to 32.7 percent (18-of-55) for the Bulldogs.

Bobby Knight announces his retirement...

We could have posted one of Coach Knight's chair-throwing tantrums to celebrate his retirement, but we decided to go ahead with a more "neighborly" video. Here is the video of Bobby arguing with his neighbor after shooting at his neighbor's home. I am not sure if you call this arrogance or just a sociopath's behavior. But it is somewhat entertaining.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Carolina First Center Construction

Cougs host the Citadel tonight @ 7 PM!

With road games at Appalachian State on Thursday and Davidson on Saturday, the (9-12, 4-7) College of Charleston Cougars need a win tonight to get their heads straight and their confidence back on track. Across town, the young Citadel team (5-15, 0-11) needs to right their ship after losing 9-straight games or they might join Davidson as the only SoCon school to not win a conference game during the season*. Tonight won’t be a replay of the blowout at McAlister Field House last month. The Bulldogs will give the Cougars a fight tonight and with Dustin Scott and Marcus Hammond sitting out tonight’s game for violating team rules, the Bulldogs won’t have quite the issue in the paint as they did in the last meeting of these two teams.

See you tonight, if you can’t make the game, catch it on Comcast Channel 42. Go Cougs!

*Davidson was 0-10 in the SoCon for their 1959-1960 season.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Look what you started, Bobby Cremins by Gene Sapakoff of The Post & Courier

Charleston.Net Logo

Ready for a new challenge

By Gene Sapakoff
The Post and Courier
Friday, February 1, 2008
Coastal Carolina basketball coach Cliff Ellis.

Al Behrman/AP

Coastal Carolina basketball coach Cliff Ellis.

At 61, former Clemson coach Ellis rebuilding again at Coastal Carolina

CONWAY — Look what you started, Bobby Cremins: An obvious trend in which former major conference basketball head coaches emerge from retirement and broadcasting to beat the bushes for power forwards and study UNC Wilmington video before the warm South Carolina sun shines on breakfast.

Cliff Ellis doesn't need this. Not the Big South Conference bus rides or losses to VMI and Liberty.

Financially secure at 61, he was three years removed from a coaching career spanning 29 NCAA Division I seasons at South Alabama (1975-84), Clemson (1984-94) and Auburn (1994-2004) with eight NCAA Tournament appearances and 12 NIT trips.

Only a last-second shot by Connecticut's Tate George kept his 1990 Clemson team from the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight. His Auburn program made the cover of Sports Illustrated.

But there he was Monday night at Kimbel Arena, the new Coastal Carolina head coach zipping about the Chanticleers' sideline late in a tight game against UNC Asheville and waving his arms at the student section across the floor.

"Get up!" Ellis shouted. "Get up!"

He kept cheerleading, even creeping several feet onto the court.

"Get up!"

Wearing a lime green tie, no less.

The students complied, roaring as sophomore guard Logan Johnson made a 3-point shot to cut UNC Asheville's lead to 46-44 with 5:04 remaining.

"I know Coach Ellis wants a home-court advantage as much as we do," Johnson said. "When he gets them going, it's a great feeling."

It wasn't enough. Injury-riddled Coastal Carolina lost to the Bulldogs and 7-7 center Kenny George, 56-52, to fall to 9-10 overall and 2-4 in the Big South going into Saturday's home game against Charleston Southern (1 p.m., Fox Sports South television).

"I've taken on a massive building operation, you can see that. Massive," Ellis said. "But I love rebuilding. I love the game, I love teaching and I missed the competition."

As a TV analyst, he got a close look at "mid-major" programs, including the College of Charleston last season with former Hilton Head retiree Bobby Cremins in his first year as head coach. Ellis consulted with Cremins, Citadel athletic director Les Robinson and Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski.

When Ellis led Clemson to the 1990 Atlantic Coast Conference regular season championship, he clinched Clemson's only such title with a victory over Coach K's Blue Devils and other fellow ACC coaches also included Cremins (Georgia Tech) and Robinson (N.C. State).

"I asked Bobby last year what it was like getting back," Ellis said. "He said, 'Truly, it's helping me stay young.' He said it was like running, at first you have to get in condition and then it's just like riding a bicycle. It's been the same for me."

Surely, another part of the lure was salary (a five-year contract calls for $150,000 a year) and location (Cliff and Carolyn Ellis are renting in Surfside Beach while building a home overlooking Murrells Inlet).

For its investment, Coastal Carolina wants Ellis to stick around. The Myrtle Beach Sun News reports his buyout clause is $1.5 million, perceived insurance after Buzz Peterson left two seasons into his Chanticleers tenure to take a front-office job with the NBA's Charlotte Bobcats.

"Cliff wants to build a program," said Coastal Carolina athletic director Warren "Moose" Koegel, a former Penn State and NFL offensive lineman. "These kids are playing their hearts out and a lot of it is because of Cliff and his staff. We're really excited about the future."

Koegel knew Ellis was forced out at Clemson and Auburn, and knew Ellis had run-ins with the NCAA during his tenure at both schools.

"We investigated it, called people and talked to him about it," Koegel said. "We found out his name was not really mentioned in any of it. We got the true story, I think. When we had a chance to hire somebody with that kind of coaching experience, we did it, and he's a great person."

Ellis introduced himself to Coastal Carolina boosters with a $10,000 donation to the school. His young staff includes Jimbo Tolbert, one of his former Auburn team managers.

"The very first team meeting we had when I was at Auburn and the way he commanded the room, that's the day I figured I wanted to be a coach," Tolbert said. "I was in awe."

Ellis seems to have adapted well to a team led by senior guard Jack Leasure, the Big South's best shooter. Leasure, a history major who introduced presidential candidate Barack Obama at a campus rally last fall, knows leadership.

"This is my third coach in four years but it's turned out great," Leasure said. "He's a lot of fun to play for and he's a good preparation coach. It's a real thinking man's game with him."

Ellis, who says he has nothing but sweet feelings for Clemson and Auburn, knows how he wants this story to end.

"I want a championship here," Ellis said. "I took this job because there was one winning season in the last 13 years. I'm not a Kentucky or Duke guy. I'm an Auburn, Clemson, South Alabama guy. I love the challenge. This is me."

Reach Gene Sapakoff at gsapakoff@postandcourier.com or (843) 937-5593.

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