Dennis Gates‘ first season at Missouri will be remembered as a success. Coming in from Cleveland State, Gates took over a Tigers program that crashed to a 12-21 record last year that ended with Cuonzo Martin leaving the program.
But the team rebounded with Gates at the helm. It finished 25-11 on the season, which was the most wins that program has had since it was in the Big 12. Missouri’s 11 conference wins was the most in the SEC since its first year in the conference.
“Twenty years from now we’ll look back, 10 years now from we’ll look back, five years from now we’ll look back and see how important it was what they’ve done,” Gates said in his press conference after the Tigers lost to Princeton in the Round of 32.
The Tigers also won their first NCAA Tournament game since the 2010 season. That was so long ago that the team’s leading scorer was Kim English, who was just hired this week as the new head coach of Providence.
Asked to reflect on his first year in Columbia, Gates didn’t focus on what he did. He focused on the work of the players.
“When it comes down to reflection, I’ve always appreciated my guys from the very, very beginning of our conversations and journey,” Gates said. “They’ve done a tremendous job. They’ve done everything that I’ve asked them to do. They’ve done even more, right?”
All-SEC first team performer Kobe Brown was the star of the team. He averaged team highs in points with 15.8 and rebounds with 6.4.
It was an experienced group too. The top eight scorers were all at least juniors with many of them senior and fifth-year players. They have set a good foundation for Gates to continue building upon going forward.
“I appreciate every last one of our players, every last one of our staff members, but more importantly I appreciate our campus leadership — Desiree Reed-Francois, our athletic director, President Mun Choi, board of curators — for giving me an opportunity,” Gates said. “But these guys gave me everything that I could ask of them. That’s what I’m most thankful for.”