It's not that far away. A new era for Cleveland State Vikings basketball begins in less than two months.
Thursday at Market Garden Brewery in Ohio City, new Head Coach Dennis Felton and Athletic Director Mike Thomas were among those on hand for 'Hops & Hoops,' a meet-and-greet event to attract some new fans down to the Wolstein Center this winter.
Felton comes to the Vikings after spending the last three seasons as an assistant coach at Tulsa. He was previously a head coach at Western Kentucky and Georgia, where he took over programs in distress and led both schools to the NCAA Tournament. Cleveland State has won just 18 games over the past two seasons.
It's hard not to come away impressed when you talk to Felton. "This championship culture that we're building is really starting to take hold with our players," Felton said during our conversation. "Our fans can count on seeing a brand of basketball right from day one, whether we win or lose, that will show them that our program is headed in the right direction."
Thomas was hired in February and begins his first full year at the helm of Cleveland State's athletic department after successful tenures at Akron, Cincinnati, and Illinois. Thomas was the man who hired Keith Dambrot as the head coach of the Zips, and it's clear he thinks that Felton can be the kind of coach that can have the kind of sustained success that Dambrot did at UA before departing for Duquesne.
"Dennis has proven throughout his career that he can build programs and do it in the right way," Thomas said. "I have no doubt that he's the right person for the job. He's brought in a tremendous staff and has a tremendous work ethic."
The Vikings will start official practice next week. They'll open up against those aforementioned Akron Zips at Rhodes Arena on November 11. The home opener at the Wolstein Center will be on November 17 against Coppin State.
WATCH | I had a chance to talk with both Felton and Thomas in a WKYC Facebook Live at Market Garden. Check it out below: