COLUMBIA, Mo. – Missouri is hiring wildly successful Cleveland State coach Dennis Gates to help rebuild a long-floundering program that has churned through seven head and interim coaches since Norm Stewart prowled the sidelines in Columbia.
The university’s Board of Curators approved Gates’ hiring on Tuesday.
The 42-year-old Gates took over Cleveland State’s program in 2019 and, after winning just 11 games in his first season, engineered one of the biggest turnarounds in Division I basketball. The Vikings went 19-8 and made the NCAA Tournament last season, then went 20-11 and lost in the first round of the NIT this season.
Gates replaces Cuonzo Martin, who was fired after his third losing season in five years at Missouri.
One of the up-and-coming coaches in college hoops, Gates signed a revised contract in May 2021 that paid him $550,000 a year and made him the highest-earning coach in the Horizon League. Gates will be paid much more handsomely by Missouri, though, which lavished upon Martin a seven-year contract that guaranteed him $21 million total.
Gates is the first significant hiring by athletic director Desiree Reed-Francois, who arrived at Missouri in August.
The pressure is on for Reed-Francois’s move to work out. Her decision to fire Martin, who was 78-77 with the Tigers but had helped the basketball program — and the athletic department — navigate several years of social unrest on campus, was met with almost universal scorn from those within the close-knit college basketball coaching fraternity.
Missouri has not won an NCAA Tournament game since 2010, a period of ineptitude that in part cost not only Martin but also Frank Haith and Kim Anderson their jobs. The Tigers have never made it to the Final Four.
Gates grew up in Chicago and was a three-time captain for California before embarking on his coaching career, first as an intern for the Los Angeles Clippers. He spent time at Florida State and Marquette as a graduate assistant before stints on the bench at California, Northern Illinois, Nevada and alongside Leonard Hamilton at Florida State.
He helped to recruit lottery pick Jonathan Isaac and stars such as M.J. Walker and Terance Mann to Tallahassee.
Gates’ wife, Jocelyn, was hired as a senior associate athletic director at Ohio State last summer. It’s unclear whether she will remain there or if a job will be become available within the Missouri athletic department.