KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Dennis Gates has been hired to lead the University of Missouri men’s basketball program.
The UM System Board of Curators approved Gates’ hiring Tuesday to replace Cuonzo Martin, who parted ways with Mizzou earlier this month at a 12-21 season.
Gates, 42, comes to Columbia from Cleveland State, where he led the Vikings to a 50-40 record in three seasons.
"I can't wait to get started," Gates said in a video posted on the team's official Twitter account. "I'm definitely excited to be here."
Hear from the man himself, @coachdgates! #MIZ 🐯 pic.twitter.com/cDVSEdEDdV— Mizzou Hoops (@MizzouHoops) March 22, 2022
Gates was introduced at a noon press conference Tuesday in Columbia.
Curator Jeffrey Layman, President Mun Choi and Athletic Director Desiree Reed-Francois all gave a brief introduction for Gates and all used the same word to describe the new coach: relentless.
Gates made it clear that relentlessness is indeed his goal.
"My dream is to become a national champion. My dream is to become a hall of fame coach. Mizzou has everything in place for me to accomplish those goals, those dreams, those aspirations," he said.
The new coach said he talked with the team Tuesday morning and outlined his core values then let them ask questions.
"We're going to win championships in the classroom, on the court, in the community," Gates said. "We're gonna win them."
Cleveland State hadn’t won more than 12 games in four seasons when Gates took over in 2019.
The Vikings went 11-21 and tied for seventh in the Horizon League during his debut season as head coach, but improved to 19-8 and 20-11 during the next two years.
Cleveland State, which signed Gates to a six-year extension last May that made him the highest-paid coach in the Horizon League, reached the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament for the first time since 2009 in Gates’ second season.
Led by Gates, the Vikings breezed to the Horizon League Tournament crown before Cleveland State lost to Houston during the first round of the national tourney.
The Vikings, who shared the Horizon League regular-season title each of the last two seasons, lost to Xavier in the first round of the NIT this season after getting upset in the conference tourney semifinals.
Gates, who played collegiately at California-Berkeley, but said he was recruited by Missouri coming out of high school.
"I remember Norm Steward recruiting me out of Chicago... At that point, the seed of how special Missouri was was planted, it was nurtured," he said, despite going other directions at the time.
Gates was chosen as the Horizon League Coach of the Year in 2020 and 2021. He shared the honor in 2020.
Prior to taking over at Cleveland State, Gates served as an assistant on Leonard Hamilton’s staff at Florida State from 2011-19, where he was credited as an important recruiter for the Seminoles.
Gates, a Chicago native, briefly interned with the Los Angeles Clippers before joining the college basketball coaching ranks.
He started as a graduate assistant under Tom Crean at Marquette before heading to Florida State as a graduate assistant under Hamilton.
Gates’ first full-time assistant coaching gig came under Ben Braun at his alma mater from 2005-07 before stints on the staffs at Northern Illinois (2007-09) and Nevada (2009-2011).
Martin and Mizzou “parted ways” on March 11, a day after the Tigers’ season ended with a loss in the second round of the SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament.
The school owed Martin, whose contract averaged more than $3 million per year, a $6-million buyout for terminating his contract after five seasons.
Martin finished 78-77 overall, including 35-53 in SEC play. He previously coached at Missouri State, Tennessee and California.
While a switch in coach can be jarring, Gates made it clear he plans to move forward on trust first and foremost and plans to be a rock for his players.
"You may not have chosen me, but I choose you," he said. "(The) first most important thing is to break down the barriers between young people and their dreams and aspirations."