CLEVELAND — Cleveland State is still dancing.
Yes, the NCAA Tournament has been over for several weeks, but CSU is now celebrating a contract extension for head men's basketball coach Dennis Gates. Gates' new deal, which was first reported by 3News' Nick Camino, was officially announced at a press conference on Thursday morning and will extend him through the 2026-27 season.
Gates, 41, was hired at Cleveland State in 2019 after being an assistant at Florida State from 2011-19. In just his second season leading the Vikings, Gates helped guide CSU back to the "Big Dance," winning the Horizon League Tournament title and earning an automatic bid into March Madness.
Gates played for four years under Ben Braun at Cal and helped lead the Golden Bears to back-to-back tourney appearances before graduating in 2002. He then spent time as a graduate assistant at Marquette and Florida State before landing full-time jobs on the benches at Cal, Northern Illinois, and Nevada.
In 2011, Gates returned to FSU to work for Leonard Hamilton, and over the next eight years was part of a staff that led the Seminoles to seven NCAA Tournaments, including the Elite Eight in 2018. He also made national headlines in 2017 when he was shoved by controversial Duke guard Grayson Allen, although the coach later made it clear he did not believe his opponent did anything malicious.
Cleveland State eventually selected Gates to become its 18th men's basketball coach, but he inherited a program in disarray: Longtime head man Gary Waters had retired in 2017 after back-to-back nine-win seasons, and his replacement Dennis Felton was fired amid controversy and scandal after only two years on the job. In the four years before Gates took over, the Vikings' record was a pedestrian 40-89.
CSU went just 11-21 in Gates' first season, but showed enough improvement to earn him Horizon League Coach of the Year honors. Things looked to be headed south after an 0-3 start to the 2020-21 season (including a 101-46 blowout loss to Ohio), but suddenly, the Vikings caught fire, ripping off nine straight wins to take control of the conference. The team lost just two home games all year, and ended up winning their first Horizon League regular-season title in 10 years.
As the top seed in the conference tournament, Cleveland State needed triple overtime to outlast 10th-seeded Purdue Fort Wayne 108-104 in the quarterfinals before squeaking by No. 8 Milwaukee in the semifinals. The championship game was much less stressful, as double-doubles from Torrey Patton and Tre Gomillion gave the Vikings an 80-69 win and their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2009.
CSU ended its wild campaign with a 19-8 record and the No. 15 seed in the NCAA Tournament's Midwest Region, where they fell to eventual Final Four qualifier Houston in the first round. For his efforts, Gates won his second straight Horizon League Coach of the Year award.
Following the season, Gates was rumored to be a candidate for several high-profile openings, including those at Minnesota and Boston College. It has not been confirmed if he even interviewed for any of those positions.
You can watch Thursday's press conference in the YouTube player below.