COLUMBIA, S.C. — Mac Credille was sitting in the bowels of Colonial Life Arena on Sunday night when he witnessed something he’d never seen in his more than four decades working at South Carolina.
In the training room at CLA, the longtime equipment manager for the men’s basketball team watched on TV as the South Carolina men’s basketball team advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1973.
“I was so ecstatic,” Credille said. “It was so great for them and to watch them in the locker room and everything. It is awesome. That’s what it is all about. Those guys will have great memories. I know I do. They will have because they did it.”
It was a long time coming for the Gamecocks and no one knows that better than Credille. The Columbia native started working at the university in 1973 and joined the athletics staff in 1977. He spent the first portion of his career with the football team before moving to the basketball team in 1993.
Credille, 64, has seen the Gamecocks win conference championships and witnessed the tournament drought in almost its entirety in his time working at South Carolina. Leading up to the start of the tournament last week, Credille spoke to the Gamecocks about what it would mean to succeed in March.
“I said, ‘Guys we have had teams that were 15-1 in the conference, looking great and were a two seed and a three seed and we didn’t achieve,” Credille said. “We ran out of gas. You guys have got a chance to do something so, so special that everybody will remember you for the rest of your lives. You will remember it and you can tell your kids and your grandkids about it.’”
The message to the players moved senior guard Sinarius Thornwell, who said leading up to opening weekend of the tournament that the Gamecocks wanted to win for Mac.
“It makes you really feel special,” Credille said. “I knew I was special, but they didn’t have to do that. For me and for everybody I talk to, it’s for the seniors. This is their last run. They are going to be gone. That’s the hardest thing for me. Seeing guys come and then go and Sin is so special. He’s such a great, great guy. I know he has made a mistake or two, but who hasn’t? I liked what coach Martin said. I like what Jesus said. Jesus said as he stooped down and wrote in the sand, ‘Who is without sin, let him cast the first stone.’ I love that passage because it’s so important.”
Thornwell said Thursday that it means a lot for the program to have Credille along the ride and to have him part of a team with NCAA Tournament wins to its name. The senior guard also had a conversation with Credille as soon as the Gamecocks returned from Greenville after beating Duke, one of many talks the two have shared over the years.
“We have had so many long talks when I’m in the gym shooting late at night,” Thornwell said. “He always talks to me about the history of basketball. He has always been on my side, through my suspension and through my bad years when I was injured. He had always been that guy who has been in my ear, giving me the positive word to stay focused and stay with it.
“Just because he has been around the program, he is like the program’s No. 1 fan. I don’t think anyone loves Gamecock basketball as much as Mac. To do it for him and for him to be a part of it means a lot for us.”
Credille’s tenure as the basketball equipment manager will be in its 25th year next year, after beginning in the final year of Steve Newton’s stint as the coach. He has held the position through the careers of Bobby Cremins, Eddie Fogler, Dave Odom, Darrin Horn and now Frank Martin.
Through all those years, Credille never got to be part of what he has been part of in the past week.
“I am so happy for this team,” Credille said. “They have worked so hard. They have had adversity hit them left and right, but they have fought through and it’s so nice to see them achieve what they have achieved. It’s good for the fans, but for the people that have to do so much work and so much heartache and have put so much in. We hit that point at the end of the season and everyone was kind of on them, but it is good that they have come out and they are shining.”
Credille remains thankful constantly for the opportunity to work at South Carolina and under coaches he refers to as special. The feeling is mutual between Credille and the university, as USC endowed a scholarship in his honor, which will help provide scholarship money for student managers.
His focus is entirely on others, evidenced in his desire to see the run through the NCAA Tournament continue for the fans, coaches and players without mention of himself. That’s how he has approached his job for more than four decades, working hard to do all he can to make coaches’ lives “as easy as possible.”
And when the players and coaches take on Baylor on Friday night, Credille will be watching in Columbia with his fingers crossed, hoping and praying for another week of the season.
“I really believe because I am one of those people that believes when the snowball starts rolling in the right direction, it’s hard to stop it,” Credille said. “I really believe in these guys. The thing that this team is doing now is they are believing in themselves. They’ve got confidence. They are playing like that. Good things are happening.”