With lofty goals in mind, Dennis Gates delivers passionate pitch to restless Mizzou fans | Mizzou Sports News

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Much like the young football coach who watched Tuesday’s introductory press conference from the back of the practice gymnasium at Mizzou Arena, the basketball coach’s level of success of Missouri’s newly hired Dennis Gates will ultimately come down to recruiting talent to win more games in the Southeastern Conference.

It’s a big reason Missouri’s athletic director and campus leaders were drawn to the 42-year-old Chicago native. AD Desiree Reed-Francois, UM System President Mun Choi and curator Jeff Layman used the words “relentless” and “tireless” five times in their opening remarks on Tuesday to describe Gates’ work on the trail of recruitment – ​​like three years ago when Mizzou hired young football coach Eli Drinkwitz.

“He has this incredible drive and he connects with people,” Reed-Francois said of Gates, his first major coaching hire at Mizzou. “I knew he was a great talent scout, but he connects with people in a really special way.”

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Approved by UM’s board of curators on Tuesday morning, Gates officially became the 20th coach in team history after his three seasons at Cleveland State, where he built a shambles into a two-time league champion. Horizon League. In his impassioned 10-minute opening statement on Tuesday, Gates hit all the right notes in his speech to a fan base hungry for a consistent winner, many of whom have now gathered in the same arena for three coaching presentations. –leader in eight years and five in the last 16.

Gates, whose contract was approved but not made public on Tuesday, echoed Choi’s desire to deliver championships to Mizzou. He masters the MIZ-ZOU song. He arrived in a slim black suit and crisp gold tie. He even named Mizzou legend Norm Stewart as one of many lines of applause that rocked the workout gym crowd.

“My dream is to become a national champion,” Gates said. “My dream is to become a Hall of Fame coach. Mizzou has put everything in place for me to achieve those goals, those dreams, those aspirations.

Ambitious? Yes. Sound familiar? You bet.

“I don’t think Mizzou is missing anything. I think we have a lot to achieve. I think we have everything we need to be the last team standing one day, and that’s my goal.

It was Cuonzo Martin five years ago at his introductory press conference. Martin, 78-77 in five years at Missouri, reached two NCAA tournaments but lost 18 more conference games than he won and paid the price on March 11 when MU fired him with two years left on his contract.

For Gates, before he can win recruits on the track – he plans to recruit not just nationally but internationally – or win wins over Norm Stewart Court, he can win over a restless fanbase that hasn’t celebrated a NCAA tournament win since 2010 The Tigers are just 63-115 in SEC regular-season games since joining the league a decade ago — spanning three different training regimens — and haven’t completed consecutive seasons ranked in national polls since 1994-95. The Tigers averaged 6,600 fans per home game this season, which ranked 12th in the 14-team SEC.

That’s why Gates’ speech on Tuesday sounded more like a recruitment pitch to fans, with some subtle references to the lukewarm response his hiring generated on social media a few days earlier. Curator Greg Hoberock made that point ahead of Tuesday’s closed-door executive session, when he seemed unaware that the Zoom meeting was live and public, and said he “understands the public sentiment is 50 -50” on Gates, then joked fans don’t decide who hires the coach, conservatives do. Board Chairman Darryl Chatman was quick to respond, saying the fans absolutely mattered in the decision.

Hours later, Gates put his sales pitch to work.

“For our current team, you may not have chosen me, but I choose you,” said Gates, 50-40 in three seasons at Cleveland State and now one of six new SEC coaches. “To our former players, you may not have chosen me, but I choose you. To our fan base, to our student body, you may not have chosen me, but I choose you.

“Let’s do it together,” he added. “One day, we will cut nets (and) we will brandish trophies. We will raise banners. One day I will sit in the green room with a first-round (NBA) draft pick. … How do we do that? We do it together. We do it the Mizzou way. To our student body, our fans, our alumni and former players as well as everyone who loves Mizzou, everyone who has created incredible memories in this great institution, I invite you, wherever you are, to create new ones.

Reed-Francois, who said he met several candidates in person and via Zoom, began following Gates’ ACC career when she was an assistant AD at Virginia Tech and he was an assistant coach at Florida State. .

“We kept asking ourselves, how did the state of Florida change things so much?” she says. “So I started asking people and they were like, ‘Dennis Gates. He’s an amazing recruiter. He’s the real deal.

Those recommendations put Gates on Reed-Francois’ shortlist of potential candidates to consider when she takes over as AD at UNLV. Instead, after firing Martin, she and consultant Eddie Fogler put together separate tiers of candidates for the job and put Gates on the top tier.

She was blown away by his turnaround work at Cleveland State, where he was the last Division I coach hired during the 2019 offseason, not landing the job until the last week of July. Reed-Francois and other college leaders were particularly impressed as Gates turned a gutted roster into an 11-win team and earned Horizon League Coach of the Year honors from his peers during of the conference.

“I like a selfless, smart, hard worker, someone who has turned a program around, someone who has a proven track record, someone with an edge, someone with a competitive spirit and just a relentless devotion to basketball,” she said. . “Someone who’s going to be so passionate about not just recruiting, but bringing people back, bringing people together.”

In the coming weeks, as Gates assembles a staff and rebuilds his roster, he will participate in the Athletic Department’s caravan stops statewide. Reed-Francois imagined Gates on those trips as she interviewed him for the job.

“I kept thinking, man, I can see him connecting with our fan base and bringing people back,” she said. “Because that’s what it’s all about. It’s about being together. And we have to bring people home.

Pickett, Brazile enter transfer gate

One of Gates’ first tasks could be to save his own roster: Senior guard Javon Pickett and freshman forward Trevon Brazile both entered the NCAA transfer portal on Tuesday, first reported by VerbalCommits .com. Pickett, a Belleville native, was United’s leading conference scorer this season, averaging 13.4 points per game. Pickett has an additional year of eligibility granted by the NCAA after the pandemic. Brazile was MU’s breakthrough newcomer, amassing 6.6 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game, ranking among the SEC leaders all season.

Both players could still choose to come back and play for Gates next season, but to have legal contact with other schools they must submit their names to the gate. Freshman guard Anton Brookshire, Brazile’s high school teammate in Springfield, Mo., entered the portal earlier this month.

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