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BURNING QUESTION: Does Dennis Gates Get Fired This Year?

Mizzou Basketball is bad, like, REALLY bad this year. 0-11 in the SEC bad, and the forecast does not look good for the Tigers to notch their first conference win. They have 18-5 Ole Miss next, with 8th-ranked Tennessee, rival Arkansas, and 16-7 Florida to round out their February. They play Ole Miss again at home, then welcome 13th-ranked Auburn, and finally LSU, which could be their best shot at winning a conference matchup. Not great, which has garnered the question of what needs to be done for Mizzou Basketball to succeed. Last year seems like a fluke now with how poor this season has gone, and for some, the architect of last year's season could be on the hot seat. Let's analyze.

The Case for Dennis Gates

Dennis Gates has had success in developing programs. He was Horizon League Coach of the Year in 2019-2020 while at Cleveland State for developing that program back into something competitive. The Vikings earned NCAA Tournament bids in 2021 and 2022, as well as won their conference tournament in 2021. He developed Da'moi Hodge into a guy who looked stellar at the SEC level and eventually got him NBA attention. Gates is a players' coach, who builds a program around positivity, motivation, and overall, playing loose and having fun while also getting down and dirty. It was a match made in heaven for last year's Missouri team, made up of scrappy guys and senior leaders who could assist in building toward something great. Missouri would go 25-10 and earn themselves a 7-seed in 2022-23, their highest seed since the 2011-2012 season. This year, Mizzou lost a lot of that talent, and Gates did his best to bring on guys that played that type of basketball, trying to build the Missouri Basketball brand. A lot of the failures of this year fall on the attitudes of the players, and when you bring on toxic personalities such as Caleb Grill, that's the risk you take. Not all of this is on Gates, he put his trust in guys that he thought could keep up the brand. Grill and a few others looked like those types of guys, and they just haven't panned out. That, or they're simply too young and need more development. The upperclassmen leadership has played well, which is why they've been well in a few of these tighter games that they've played, however, it's not enough. Give Gates time with this group, and you may see dividends. Cut out the cancers, motivate your guys to stay with this program, and get guys excited about playing for Mizzou. A big surprise win would help immensely with that, I think. He's only been here a single year, it may simply be a sophomore slump, especially with all the talent he lost.

The Case Against Dennis Gates

Given that Dennis Gates did earn Coach of the Year in the Horizon League, let's analyze that further. Cleveland State did improve under Gates's tenure, but by how much, and what does Cleveland State's history look like? Does it indicate that Gates was ready for Power 6 coaching? Yes, they won their conference tournament and made their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2009 under Gates, but how much of that was having a roster full of upperclassmen and experience, and what was Gates's own doing? Mind you, Gates was only there from 2019-2022, a mere 4 years, so did he legitimately have time to develop players outside of Da'Moi Hodge, who followed him to Missouri? Gates got there and the Vikings were successful almost immediately because of their experience. They also didn't lose any momentum once Gates left, going 21-14 last year and are 15-10 so far this year. Was Cleveland State already heading toward the upside even without Dennis Gates? That's the question I think the Missouri Tigers have to ask, do we believe in Dennis Gates' accolades, or is it fool's gold? This season answers that if things continue to go south and this season doesn't end on a high note. The Tigers look unmotivated, frustrated, and undisciplined. The guys that should have been big producers this year haven't done a thing. They're losing to bottom-dwellers like Vanderbilt. It plain and simple, does not look good, and this was supposed to be a team that could potentially finish top 5 in the conference. Unless Gates can turn those attitudes and poor performances around as a head coach should, it may cost him his job.


In the end, with the successes of football season seeming in the rearview mirror for the Tigers after what has been a disappointing basketball season, there's a strong possibility Mizzou Athletics keeps a short leash and fires Gates after the season. The big questions that Mizzou Athletics has to ask are how much slack are we willing to give, how much of this is Gates's fault, and do we believe in Gates's ability to right the ship?

That is left up for them to decide in the end, but what do you all think? Is Gates gone after this year? Is there an upside to keeping him? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

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