New men’s basketball staff welcomes former guard Gates back as assistant coach

Doug Gulasy

KSU leader back after Sweet 16 season with Western Kentucky

Former men’s basketball player Armon Gates spent just one season away from Kent State before deciding to come back in a different role.

Gates returned to the University Monday to become an assistant coach on new head coach Geno Ford’s staff.

“It’s an honor just to be called back to come here,” Gates said. “After just one year away from the program I get called back. So obviously that’s telling me that I did something well when I was here as an undergraduate student and also as a graduate student.”

In five seasons as a member of the Flashes, Gates scored 804 points. As a senior co-captain in 2006-2007, Gates started 17 games and scored 9.3 points per game to rank third.

“This is exciting for me to have a former player in the program, someone who understands what the tradition is all about,” Ford said in a statement. “Armon was a very good player and is a guy who did everything right when he was here, on and off the floor. We want kids just like Armon. Our players will relate to him very well.”

With Gates’ hiring, two vacancies remain on Ford’s staff – previous assistant Eric Haut, who will not be returning, is expected to join former Kent State coach Jim Christian at Texas Christian University, and Ford is not retaining Arnette Jordan for his staff.

Gates spent the 2007-2008 season as an intern for the Western Kentucky men’s basketball team, which reached the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament.

While a member of the Hilltoppers’ staff, Gates said he tried mostly to relate to the players and said he would try to do the same thing here.

“I can relate to (the players),” Gates said. “If they need to get an assignment done but have to go on the road, I can relate to those guys. I can give them some advice, tell them, ‘Take some time here and there (and) get this paper done.’

In Ford’s introductory press conference last Wednesday, he spoke of senior leadership in the Kent State program. One of his major goals is a 100 percent player graduation rate.

Gates said he hopes his Kent State career serves as an example for some of the younger players, particularly in those two areas. Along with Omni Smith, Gates was the 2006-2007 team’s major leader. In terms of academics, he earned a master’s degree in sports administration in 2007.

“That’s one of the most important things that I want to do, just for young men period – not even athletically,” Gates said. “Even if some guys that go to this university right now – they don’t have to play basketball – I just want to be a positive role model.

“(I want to) let them know, ‘You can be young (and) you can get things done the right way. You don’t have to go about it negatively; you can get things done the right way. With the (basketball players), I want to show them that you can play basketball and still get your degree. If you redshirt, you can get your master’s degree.”

Gates said he received a warm welcome from players and people around the campus, which has gotten him excited about his return.

“Sometimes I see some faculty members excited that I’m back,” he said. “It just blows (my mind) sometimes that I’m wanted that much this soon. Sometimes some people lower their standards and say they’re not ready to do this job, ready to do that job.

“But people excite me when they come to me and give me hugs and accept me how they accept me. Kent State has accepted me back with open arms. I’m so excited about that, and I’m ready to get this thing going and continue our winning tradition here.”

Contact sports reporter Doug Gulasy at [email protected].