In 2008-09, Dennis Gates completed his first season as associate head coach (second overall) with the men's basketball program at Northern Illinois. At 28 years of age, Gates is one of the youngest associate head coaches in the country. The 2008-09 campaign marked his fourth year as a full time Division I assistant coach.
"Dennis is a young man that played at Cal, and graduated in three years," NIU head men's basketball coach Ricardo Patton said. "He is a guy that plugs us into Chicago right away and is well-respected among his peers across the country, but particularly in the state of Illinois."
As lead recruiter, Gates quickly assembled the youngest and one of the most talented teams in the Mid-American Conference. While tutoring the Huskie guards, the 2008-09 season was highlighted by sophomore guard Darion "Jake" Anderson earning a spot on the Mid American Conference second-team (NIU's first All-MAC representative since the 2001-02 season) and first-year point guard Mike DiNunno being named to the MAC All-Freshman Team. Following the 2007-08 campaign, Anderson was also voted MAC Freshman of the Year.
One of the sharpest young minds in basketball, Gates orchestrated the Huskies' offense from the sidelines. Statistically, NIU finished the 2008-09 MAC season ranked second in offensive rebounding (12.7 rpg), third in scoring (66.2 ppg), third in three-point field goal percentage (34.7), fourth in assists (12.4 apg), fifth in three-point field goals made (6.17) and fifth in team field goal percentage (42.2). All were significant improvements from the 2007-08 campaign. The 2008-09 season saw the Huskies go 7-5 at home, their first winning record at the Convocation Center since the 2005-06 season. Overall, NIU's win total increased by four wins from the 2007-08 campaign.
Prior to joining the NIU staff, Gates served a two-year stint (2005-07) as an assistant coach under then-head coach Ben Braun at his alma mater, the University of California-Berkeley.
"Dennis brings a great passion to the coaching profession," said Braun, now the head coach at Rice. "It is not surprising to me that he has received the opportunity to be an associate head coach at such a young age. He has always embraced being in a leadership role, whether as a player or coach. Dennis has always taken great initiative, and for that reason, I was never afraid to delegate responsibilities to him, even when he was a very young coach. It is clear that he continues to be an asset to the NIU program."
In just his first season at Cal as a coach, Gates made a significant impact by working closely with all post players. In fact, the Golden Bears saw their wins increase from 13 (2004-05) to 20 (2005-06). Highlights included Cal earning a trip back to the NCAA Tournament, and sophomore power forward Leon Powe being named a second-team All-American by the Associated Press, the U.S. Basketball Writers and ESPN.com. He was also chosen to the 2006 All-Pac 10 team. Powe was selected by the Denver Nuggets in the second round (49th overall pick) of the 2006 NBA Draft.
Gates also made his presence felt as a national recruiter, by putting together a solid recruiting class. The 2006 class included four top-150 recruits; including current center Taylor Harrison, current All Pac-10 guards Patrick Christopher and Jerome Randle, and former All Pac-10 power forward and 2008 NBA first-round draft pick Ryan Anderson. Following the 2006-07 season, Anderson was selected to the Pac-10 All-Freshman team.
Prior to his full-time coaching positions, Gates served as a graduate assistant for both Leonard Hamiliton and the 2004-05 Florida State Seminoles, as well as Tom Crean and the 2003-04 Marquette Golden Eagles. While at Marquette, Gates tutored NBA Draft picks Travis Diener and Steve Novak. While at FSU, Gates helped coach NBA Draft picks Alexander Johnson, Von Wafer and Al Thornton. In addition, Gates served as a Intern Assistant for the Los Angeles Clippers (2002-03) under head coach Alvin Gentry, and also interim head coach, the late Dennis Johnson.
As a three-year captain at Cal, Gates played a key role in the Bears' run to the 1999 National Invitational Tournament title and the 2000 NIT Final Eight, and helped Cal earn bids to the NCAA Tournament in 2001 and 2002. Gates was a two-time First-Team Pac-10 All-Academic Team selection; Cal's Most Inspirational Player (2001) and was twice named the Bears' Outstanding Student-Athlete (1999-2001). In addition, he was awarded the 2002 Pac-10 Medal of Honor (given to the Pac-10 Universities Top Graduating Student-Athlete).
Gates is a 1998 graduate of Chicago Whitney Young High School, and helped the Dolphins to the 1998 IHSA Class AA State Boys Basketball Championship. In April 2007, he was inducted into the Chicago Public League Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Gates earned his bachelor's degree in sociology in three years at Cal, and picked up his master's degree in adult education and human resource development at Florida State University.