Dennis Gates Deserves a Chance

On paper, it was an underwhelming hire. Mizzou basketball once again found itself at a crossroads. Rumors swirled about a reunion with rising (and green) Kim English, throwing caution to the wind with the controversial Sean Miller, hot names out of the tournament were thrown around.

Then came Dennis Gates from Cleveland State.

“WHO???” said all.

No one’s ever heard of this guy. He took Cleveland State to the tournament last year. Big whoop.

He landed some great recruits at Florida State under Leonard Hamilton. Okay.

He cleaned up in the JUCO recruiting circuit. He had eight seniors on his squad this year. Interesting.

Cleveland State was 40-86 in the five years leading up to his hiring. That should give everyone pause.

Mizzou basketball has been a project for nearly a decade now. We are far removed from the relative glory Mizzou came to expect under Norm Stewart and intermittently from 1999-2012. We’ve since come to expect the worst.

I was heavy on Kim English. Big time. I thought the time was right to risk it all and bring him home.

Unfortunately, he’s one year into a contract at George Mason. He’s landed top 100 recruits at Colorado, Tennessee and at GMU. He’s missing a key trait. He has not built a program

Dennis Gates has. Cleveland State made the NIT or NCAA Tournament in consecutive seasons. They finished first or tied for first in the Horizon League back to back years.

He’s a riser. Power Five experience, recruited lottery picks, learned under a hall of fame coach, turned a joke of a low major program into a postseason regular, won conference titles and wins in March. His teams at Cleveland State were known for their athleticism, backdoor cuts and relentless defense. I’m into it.

It was time for Mizzou to make a big bet and Gates seems to be the safer bet than Kim English or another name.

If Kim English had the same resume as Dennis Gates, we’d be over the moon right now. If Dennis Gates had Kim English’s resume, we’d be burning down Jesse Hall.

The factory settings on Mizzou fans do not include optimism, joy, encouragement or any real positive traits other than gallows humor. This hire was bashed by everyone. Myself included. I want to wear it. Make me wear it. I’m begging you to make me feel anything.

Is an immediate turnaround in the cards? Doubtful, but there are plenty of benchmarks for him to hit to get momentum behind him:

-Secure Aidan Shaw’s re-commitment
-Retain Trevon Brazile (literally entered the portal as I wrote this), Kobe Brown and Anton Brookshire. (I honestly don’t care if no one returns to this team and he has to build the roster through JUCO and the portal.)
-Land multiple top transfer guards and a big
-Swipe a couple of assistants from power fives
-Sign a top 40 recruiting class for 2023

He has already been rumored to have Texas assistant coach Jerrance Howard on the hook. Howard is one of the best recruiters in the country. Securing good assistants is paramount. Invaluable commodities. Judging by his relative inexperience as a head coach, he likely has a decent sized assistants pool to work with. Is there enough cash in the assistants pool to lure him away from Texas and their war chest?

He did not fill the air with platitudes and slogans in his press conference. He walked the line between humble and confident. He made his goals very clear. He wants to be a national champion at Mizzou. He wants to be a hall of fame coach. He never took sole credit for his success at States Florida or Cleveland. He wants to rebuild fractured relationships around Missouri. His vision was clearly stated.

“Winning the press conference” is a meme. But it’s also true. He did a great job on Tuesday.

He used the word “we.” A lot.

Denny, let’s cut down some goddamn nets.