CLEVELAND, Ohio – Now we know the good part of the story, how Cleveland State finished 16-4 to tie Wright State for the Horizon League title.
CSU fans know Coach Dennis Gates is the Horizon League Coach of the Year.
They know Tre Gomillion is the Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year. And they know Deante Johnson joined Gomillion on the Horizon League All-Defensive team. Then there’s Torrey Patton, the team’s leading rebounder and scorer who was named to the All-League first team.
But no one knew that on July 26, 2019. That’s when Gates was hired as coach. The former Florida State assistant had replaced Dennis Felton. The team had academic problems. Most of the players had entered the transfer portal. Gates was the last Division I coach hired before the 2019-20 season.
“I remember Coach Gates called a team meeting for 9 o’clock that night,” said Patton. “I think four or five of us were there. We had no idea what would happen next.”
Patton and Johnson were in attendance along with Algevon Eichelberger, a senior on this team. The fourth player was Kasheem Thomas, who graduated last spring.
CSU had lost at least 20 games in each of the four previous seasons. It appeared there was a long, winding, rocky, frustrating road ahead before the Vikings would become a Horizon League contender.
Only Gates never saw it that way. Just as he never saw the four…