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Dennis Gates is a lot more in the box hire than you think

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There seems to be some unrest about Dennis Gates, but no hire is a good or a bad hire until they’ve had a chance to do the job.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Cleveland State at Houston Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

Last night the late breaking news that Missouri had narrowed its search and were focusing on Cleveland State Head Coach Dennis Gates brought about a reaction. Most of it wasn’t great.

It was a little disheartening to see such a disparity in hopefulness towards the new head coach. But I just want to recap that 83% of the fans who voted that it was time to move on from Cuonzo Martin, and nearly 70% are unhappy with the hire of Dennis Gates.

So what percentage of the people voting in these things are just miserable in general?

I do think you can reasonably believe it was time to move on from Martin while also reasonably not loving the hire of Dennis Gates. Over the last week or so most fans seemed to be coalescing around either Todd Golden or Kim English, with some side eye towards Matt McMahon. But as I said on the podcast, Gates is a name who has always been on the periphery of the search, but only from our standpoint.

For the last week the names you’ve heard the most were McMahon, English, Golden and Gates. But when Florida hired Golden, I guess we all just assumed it was McMahon or English. I include myself in that. We’d heard from all kinds of different sources that most everyone thought it was McMahon, with English as the backup. I felt pretty good about both.

For whatever reason I just didn’t think Gates made much sense at Mizzou. There’s a lot to like about him, but I wagered there were too many similarities with the previous coach that Mizzou would probably steer clear.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Gates comes from an underprivileged inner-city area (West Chicago), attended a rigorous academic institution for college (California), had a short pro career and got into coaching. The bulk of his coaching career focused on a style of basketball which prides itself on defense and toughness (Florida State). Sounds a lot like the last guy, right?

So it would almost seem like the Administration loved everything about Cuonzo Martin, except for his recruiting. So they went and found a guy who is almost Cuonzo Martin, but with a little different pedigree on the recruiting side. While both Martin and Gates pride themselves on finding guys with toughness, Martin seemed to look for it as a primary trait, and Gates seems to look for it as a secondary trait. But the quotes keep coming back on Gates, he can recruit.

Martin was a really good basketball coach who didn’t get the necessary talent on campus to get him over the top. Even if Gates isn’t as good of a gameday coach, or in game coach, if you have better players they should be able to make up the difference.

And that was this all come down to. Getting players.

Dennis Gates has a rep as a guy who will be relentless at getting the dudes to compete. He’s got a big task of assembling a top flight staff, and remaking the roster into one that be more competitive in the SEC. The league is dominated by John Calipari, Rick Barnes, Bruce Pearl, and Eric Musselman. Behind them are some terrific coaches in Buzz Williams, Nate Oats, Jerry Stackhouse, plus a new group of hires coming to LSU, South Carolina, Florida and sort of Georgia.

The Board of Curators still has to meet and approve the contract, but once it’s done Gates has to hit the ground running. The potential exists for him to be really good.

As I like to say, hiring a new coach is a crapshoot. You never know what you’re going to get. Good looking hires don’t work out, and bad looking hires work out. There’s a lot of people who think this is a bad hire. I’m not among them. It’s not the hire I would have made, as I think I’ve been clear I’d preferred Medved, or English, or McMahon. But if Gates is the guy I think there are enough reasons to think he can be really good. He’s just got to execute the plan.