GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Armon Gates had been in town less than a day before his first staff meeting as a Florida basketball assistant coach Wednesday.
“It was really good. We talked a little recruiting,” he said later in the afternoon. “… Obviously, a couple offers were thrown out last night and the staff’s been great with that, so I’m just honestly taking a back seat to them and trying not to screw anything up.”
That won’t be the case moving forward.
One of the major intrigues in Florida’s hiring of Gates, to fill the void created when Dusty May left to become the head coach at Florida Atlantic, is his depth of recruiting connections.
Gates played prep basketball at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire, a program that routinely produces Division I talent like current Gators guard Mike Okauru, star Kansas guard Devonte’ Graham, UConn standout Jalen Adams, Georgetown’s Marcus Derrickson and many others.
“The same coach that recruited me there to Brewster, he’s still there, Jason Smith. And he’s always going to be a part of my life,” Gates said. “So you guys should definitely look forward to Florida offering and getting a couple of those Brewster Academy kids. But the relationship there, we’re very close. He’s like a big brother to me, to be honest with you. He called and congratulated me and just told me, ‘Looking forward to seeing you in my gym a lot, you and the staff.’ So absolutely.”
Meanwhile, Gates is also from Chicago and spent the last five seasons as an assistant coach at Northwestern and Loyola Chicago before that, aggressively recruiting the area.
While Florida is considered by many the premier recruiting hotbed for college football prospects, Chicago has a very strong reputation of sending basketball stars to college and the NBA.
And Gates thinks he can tap into that, even from his new post in Gainesville.
”Honestly, I feel like kids in Chicago, most of the kids, they do want to get away. Me working with Northwestern and recruiting those kids, putting a fence around that Chicago land area, we did, we got a couple yes’s, we got a couple no’s because they wanted to get away from that area,” he said. “It could be because of the weather, because of socially, social reasons, family reasons. So I think we will have a big-time shot with those Chicago area kids, Illinois kids or Midwestern kids.”
The recruiting ramifications were surely a key factor as Florida coach Mike White evaluated candidates to fill the open staff position.
It also helped that Gates has been around successful programs throughout his basketball career, helping Kent State to four straight 20-win seasons as a sharpshooting guard, later helping Loyola Chicago coach Porter Moser lay the foundation for that program’s rise and then contributing to Northwestern’s first ever NCAA Tournament appearance and win in 2017.
Additionally, White said Gates is also a personality fit for his staff and the culture of the program.
Gates was a college teammate of fellow Florida assistant coach Jordan Mincy and first met White through Mincy several years ago.
“You’re always, I guess, kind of surveying a little bit. You’re always keeping a little bit of a list,” White said. “And then after I hired Jordan Mincy, who’s very close with him, a few years ago, I started becoming more and more familiar with Armon. We had a bunch of good candidates and I narrowed it to a few that I felt really, really good about. Ultimately with Armon I felt the most comfortable. It was a marriage that met in the middle as well. Just like recruiting, you want guys that really want to be here and feel like they’re a great fit as well. You don’t have to sell too much. So he’s hit the ground running.”
Said Gates: “The tradition of the University of Florida was, again, enticing to me, a situation I couldn’t pass up. And also working with an amazing staff where it’s all about ‘we.’ Everything is about ‘we,’ there’s no competition, it’s just a common goal and that’s just to win a national championship.”