Crystal has revealed Cates approached him to take charge of the 2012 telecast last summer (11), shortly before he died, and the funnyman insisted he would think about it.
He tells Entertainment Weekly, "I did six shows with Gil. He said, 'I think I'm getting the job. Would you host? Let's do one more together.'
"Inside, I thought I was going to do it. But then tragically Gil got sick and he had surgery and he passed away."
Brett Ratner and Don Mischer then signed on as producers and announced Eddie Murphy as host, but when moviemaker Ratner was caught up in a homophobic slur scandal in November (11) he stepped down and Murphy followed the following day.
Brian Grazer stepped in to replace Ratner and immediately called Crystal, who was filming Parental Guidance in Georgia.
The comic recalls, "It just felt right... In a way, the karma was kind of perfect.
"When I saw it unravelling, I kept thinking of Gil... I kept thinking Gil would have been rolling over in his grave."
And Crystal insists he won't be working any jokes about Ratner's scandal into his Oscars routine: "I wouldn't dignify it."