"We had a good group of guys," Crews said during his postgame news conference at Barclays Center. "So that's a hard situation, but nothing lasts forever."
Crews was 77-56 in four seasons with Saint Louis. He joined the staff as an assistant to Rick Majerus in 2011 and was elevated to interim head coach for the 2012-13 season, when Majerus had to step down for health reasons. Majerus died in December 2012.
"The first person I'd like to thank in that journey at SLU was Rick," Crews said. "How many people get to spend a year with a dear, dear friend and it's his last year on earth? That was magical. We had a magic year, wonderful guys, won a ton of games, historical year. So how many people get to do that? That is a blessing."
Saint Louis went 28-7 and won the A-10 the season that Majerus died, and Crews was named permanent replacement after it was over.
"Jim Crews took over as head coach during a very difficult time and has led the men's basketball program with great class and dignity," athletic director Chris May said in a statement. "Jim represented our university well, and helped the program achieve success on the court and in the classroom. His character and commitment are exemplary, which made this decision ever more difficult."
The next season, Saint Louis went 27-7, won the A-10 regular-season title and reached the NCAA tournament again.
"However, the last two seasons have not been as successful as we had hoped, and we believe new leadership is needed to move the men's basketball program forward," May said.
The Billikens went 22-42 the last two seasons. This season, Saint Louis (11-21) had one senior on its roster and six of its 10 leading scorers were either freshmen or sophomores.
"We've had some historical years to start with and obviously we didn't win and I'd like to apologize," Crews said. "I'd like to apologize for some things because when you don't win, you make other people's jobs harder and that's the last thing that I would want is to make someone else's job harder."
Crews, 62, started his career as an assistant under Bob Knight at Indiana. He spent 17 seasons (1985-2002) as the coach at Evansville and seven (2002-09) leading Army. His career record is 430-405.
Information from The Associated Press and ESPN's Jeff Goodman was used in this report.