Old acquaintances won't be forgotten on this day

Published: Sunday, January 9, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 9, 2005 at 12:15 a.m.


Today's game

  • WHO: Auburn (9-4, 0-0 SEC) at Florida (10-4, 1-0).
  • WHEN: Today, 3 p.m.
  • WHERE: O'Connell Center.
  • ON AIR: AM-850, Sunshine Network.

  • Kerry Cremeans drove to Carolyn Peck's house last spring to deliver news that would shock Florida's women's basketball program.
    Cremeans, then an assistant on Peck's staff, told her boss she was leaving Florida to take the same job at Auburn under Nell Fortner, the first-year Tigers' coach whom Peck and Cremeans where both assistants under at Purdue.
    "She said it was no disrespect to me and this program but she saw the opportunity to go to Auburn as a promotion for her because she was going to be the first assistant there," Peck said.
    Whether or not Cremeans' move was a promotion is debatable. But the strong history between Fortner, Cremeans and Peck make for a juicy subplot to today's Florida-Auburn game at 3 p.m. in the O'Connell Center.
    The coaches - and Florida's players - have said the right things this week, but there's no question some strong emotions exist between these coaches. Even if they won't say it publicly.
    "Emotions don't have really anything to do with it," Peck said of today's game. "It's a battle in the SEC."
    Peck and Cremeans were both assistants under Fortner at Purdue during the 1996-97 season, Fortner's only season as head coach there. Peck, of course, took over when Fortner left and won a national title with the Boilermakers in 1998-99.
    Fortner and Peck both went on to coach WNBA teams, each without much success. Fortner went 42-56 in three seasons with the Indiana Fever while Peck was 44-52 in three seasons with the Orlando Miracle. The coaches went head-to-head on multiple occasions in the WNBA, but today will mark the first time Fortner and Peck have coached against each other at the collegiate level.
    As close as the ties are between these head coaches, Cremeans' decision to leave UF last spring surprised many around the SEC, and country.
    Fortner said she wasn't worried about hurting her relationship with Peck when she asked for permission to talk to Cremeans last spring.
    "It comes down to you're trying to do what's best for you," Fortner said. "I'm just getting back in the college game and I needed to hire a staff I'm comfortable with. So I hired Kerry. I hired her at Purdue and I was very familiar with her. All I could do is go after her. It's a business and when it comes down to hiring your staff, you have to do what you have to do. When I went after her, it didn't mean she was going to take the job."
    Cremeans, who lettered at Florida from 1990-94, is one of the top 3-point shooters in Gators history. When she left the Gators for Auburn, it was more than UF's coaches who were shocked.
    "Yeah, I was kind of surprised," Florida junior Bernice Mosby said. "I didn't know it was coming. But whatever is best for her, I'm proud of her."
    Mosby added the Gators aren't trying to prove anything to Cremeans today.
    "I'm not saying we want to beat her because she used to be on the staff," Mosby said. "Every team, when we come out to play, we want to win."
    To replace Cremeans, Florida hired former Hofstra assistant Jose Mori. The Gators and Tigers have had similar seasons thus far. The Gators are 10-4 while the Tigers are 9-4. The teams are very similar. And so are their coaches.
    But Fortner insists there are no hard feelings after she came to Gainesville and hired away one of Florida's top assistants.
    "I think Carolyn and I are good friends ," Fortner said. "You get over it and you move on."
    You can reach Kevin Brockway by e-mail at brockwk@gvillesun.com or by calling 374-5054.

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