There's a big difference between being the top assistant to Bobby Cremins and taking the sideline seat Cremins once occupied.
"It's the longest 18 inches you can imagine," College of Charleston interim basketball coach Mark Byington said Tuesday on the Southern Conference teleconference. "It's a huge difference.
"From the first moment, I knew it would be too daunting to say, 'I'm going to replace Coach Cremins.'"
Byington became the second Southern Conference interim coach to earn his first career victory this season. UNC Greensboro's Wes Miller earned his first career win on Jan. 12 at Charleston.
Byington, who took over when Cremins took a medical leave of absence on Jan. 27, earned his first career win Jan. 30 at Samford. He is 2-2 as head coach of the Cougars (14-10, 6-7).
"It's been challenging; it's been a lot of fun," Byington said. "I'm happy with the way the team has responded with the emotion of Coach Cremins."
He and Cremins have spoken on the phone every day for a week.
"To have him a phone call away is very valuable to me," Byington said. "For the most part, he said, 'I'm going to leave you alone. You're ready and I want you to do this.'"
Groselle for POY?
The Citadel coach Chuck Driesell certainly has an argument when he pitches center Mike Groselle for SoCon player of the year.
Groselle is second in the league with 17.3 points per game and leads with 9.4 rebounds per contest.
But, and there is a but. The Bulldogs are 4-19 overall and 1-11 in the SoCon.
Which begs the question: How much does team success matter when it comes to individual awards?
"I've been on both ends of spectrum," Driesell said. "The most recent one was Greivis Vasquez when I was at Maryland. I don't think he would have got player of the year if we didn't beat Duke in our final game, which made us regular-season champions.
"Winning is important. I can't argue it."
But stats are stats -- they don't lie.
"Mike has demonstrated that he is one of the best players in the league, and he's doing everything he can to help our team win," Driesell said. "He's established himself as a very fine player and deserves any accolades he gets.
"It comes down to a matter of opinion."
Making them pay
Don't foul Davidson.
The Wildcats are No. 2 in the nation and have shot 79.1 percent from the free-throw line this season, which trails only Weber State's 80 percent.
"It's a point of emphasis," coach Bob McKillop said. "A joy for me is to see that we've been consistent. We've done it at home and we've done it on the road. We've done it in the beginning of the year and in the later stages of the year."
Individually, the Wildcats' Jake Cohen is No. 16 nationally at 88.8 percent and Nik Cochran is No. 19 at 88.6 percent.
Elon guard Jack Isenbarger was the SoCon player of the week after averaging 23.3 points, seven rebounds and 5.6 assists in three victories for the Phoenix. He scored a career-high 34 points in 34 minutes against The Citadel on Saturday.
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...