CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Shortly after his Vikings stormed the court to celebrate their Horizon Tournament title, and upcoming trip to the Big Dance, Coach Dennis Gates got a text message from one of his mentors, legendary basketball coach George Raveling.
“Coach Raveling said ‘Congratulations! My mind and body are overflowing with joy and satisfaction for what you achieving this past season. What makes it even better is that the best is yet to come. Be humble, be appreciative, be the best that you can be every day,’” Gates read during a Zoom meeting on Wednesday.
That’s something the Vikings have done all season.
It took a village, as Gates says, to complete one of the greatest turnarounds in Cleveland State history. As always, he went deep into his bench last night, using 10 players. And those who didn’t play? They’re the now-famous bench mob, making their own impact.
And now, to the surprise of many, the Vikings are back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 12 years, and only the third time in history.
But it’s no surprise to them. They toughened up after a 55-point loss to Ohio U early in the season to prove that they can play with anyone.
“You have to go through something,” Gates said. “At the end of the day, every championship team in April in ‘One Shining Moment’, you look back at their season, and you study it, they went through something.”
As for how they’ll handle the biggest stage in basketball next week, Gates says it still comes down to staying in the moment. Or more precisely, the minute.
“We go by a poem “Just a Minute” by Benjamin E. Mays,” Gates said, reciting the poem:
I have only just a minute,
Only sixty seconds in it.
Forced upon me, can’t refuse it.
Didn’t seek it, didn’t choose it.
But it’s up to me
to use it.
I must suffer if I lose it.
Give account if I abuse it.
“That’s part of the poem that we speak of,” Gates said, continuing:
Just a tiny little minute,
but eternity is in it.