"...people who win find ways to win,
and people who lose find excuses."

- Gary Waters


If you ask third-year Viking men's basketball coach Gary Waters about the sudden transformation of the CSU program, he will tell you that it has all gone according to the plan.

In fact, he can even show you the book where he first outlined the steps that the Vikings would go from being worst to picked first.

In the 30 months since being named the head coach at Cleveland State, Waters has systematically gone about building a new program. He painstakingly put together a recruiting plan for the first four seasons, knowing that he needed to build the program with a solid foundation and evenly spread the resources in order to help assure that success would be constant instead of fleeting.

And his efforts have paid big dividends.

Last year, CSU became one of at least 18 teams in NCAA Division I history to go from winning 10 games or fewer in one season to 20 or more in the next. And yes, it was planned.

Waters sent CSU into the 2007-08 season with the goal of "Flipping The Script", or taking the 10-21 mark of the season before and turning it around. The Vikings, who were picked to finish ninth in the Horizon League last year, accomplished their goal, shocking the league by winning their first seven conference games en route to a second place finish.

Included in that opening run was a 56-52 win over 12th-ranked Butler that gave the Vikings only their second victory ever over a ranked opponent.

Cleveland State recorded 21 wins during the year, marking the sixth 20-win campaign in school history and the first since 1992-93. The 12-6 league mark allowed the Vikings to set the school standard for league wins in a season and by beating Valparaiso in the semi-finals of the league tournament, CSU advanced to the championship game for the first time since joining the Horizon League.

Despite falling in the Horizon League title game at 12th-ranked Butler, Cleveland State was rewarded for its performance during the season by receiving a bid to play in the National Invitational Tournament, marking the program's fourth post-season appearance and first since the 1987-88 campaign.

The Vikings accomplished the turnaround with hard work. CSU finished among the top three teams in the league in every hustle statistic -- scoring defense, rebounding, offensive rebounding, steals and blocks -- and became the first team in league history to go from finishing last in rebounding margin one season to first the next.

Waters was rewarded for his effort by being tabbed as the Horizon League Co-Coach of the Year, marking the third time that he received the honor during his coaching career.

More importantly, Waters saw some of the most important building blocks -- fan attendance and exposure -- improve as well. Attendance at home games was up over 26 percent, with the average crowd size being the largest since the 1999-2000 season and the total home attendance being the most since 1998-99.

Twelve of the 34 Viking games were televised, eight as part of CSU's partnership with SportsTime Ohio and four more on the various ESPN platforms, giving the Vikings the most exposure of any team in the Horizon League.

The over-night success of the Vikings has made the rest of the league take notice as CSU enters the 2008-09 campaign as the team to beat in the Horizon League this year in a preseason poll of the league's coaches, sports information directors and media. That is a far cry from the season before when the Vikings were tabbed ninth in the 10 team league with only one of the 46 voters picking CSU to finish in the upper half of the league.

Waters' accomplishments at Cleveland State are nothing new.

A 12-year head coaching veteran, he has amassed 202 wins and led teams to post-season play seven times during that span, he has rebuilt programs before, first at Kent State and then at Rutgers.

Named the 15th head coach in Cleveland State University history on April 6, 2006, Waters gave a little insight into his plan for the program at his hiring press conference.

"Cleveland is a great city and has great resources," he told the media. "To get this done, we need to make a commitment to the City of Cleveland and let it be part of this program. We have to build this program around players from this area so that we can give our fans something that they truly can be proud of." Waters has wasted no time in implementing his plan, using his first 30 months on the job to do exactly what he told the press. He has:

brought in a seven-player recruiting class for the 2007-08 season that experts rated as the second best class in Ohio, trailing only national runner-up Ohio State;

added transfers Cedric Jackson (St. John's), Chris Moore (UC-Santa Barbara) and George Tandy (Eastern Illinois), who proved to be the backbone of the 2007-08 squad, providing experience and leadership to a generally young squad;

backed up his commitment to build the program with student-athletes from the Cleveland area by signing six players in his first two CSU recruiting classes who played their high school basketball in the Greater Cleveland area and a total of nine from Ohio;

was the driving force behind the creation of the Viking Basketball Report, a weekly half-hour show on CSU Basketball that airs on SportsTime Ohio.

filled his coaching staff with 47 years of experience by hiring Jayson Gee, Larry DeSimpelare and Jermaine Kimbrough as assistant coaches; and

proudly displayed the CSU campus to countless high school and AAU basketball coaches and players.

Waters is quick to point out the three characteristics that a successful program must have to find success. . . a vision, a plan and quality people. Every decision that he has made has kept those three points in mind as he began the process of building the Viking program.

"Part of the foundation was already in place here at Cleveland State," Waters said. "We had quality people -- both in the program and supporting the program -- already here and ready to take this team to the next level."

Using the insight of legendary UCLA head coach John Wooden, Waters personally taught a class in success to the CSU players in 2006-07, using Wooden's Pyramid of Success as the textbook for the class. Waters uses the course to instill upon the Viking players what is necessary to become a winner, both on the court and in life. He challenged them to build their own pyramid, identifying the traits and qualities that are needed to bring the CSU program to national prominence.

Year two of the success class had Waters using John Maxwell's manuscript, Talent Is Never Enough, to teach the Vikings that people are never successful by talent alone, outlining the 13 crucial things they can do to maximize their natural talents to become a "Talent-plus" person.

This year, Waters has turned to Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy and his book, Quiet Strength, as his inspiration, deriving from it this year's team motto, `Do what we do, but do it better.'

Ever the teacher, Waters also used the end of the summer to take the Vikings on an 11-day tour of Spain, going 3-1 against club and professional teams in the country while more importantly, giving the CSU players a bonding and cultural experience that he hopes will be remembered for the rest of their lives.

"This is a special group of kids who are capable of doing special things," Waters said. "Their intensity during the practices leading up to the tour was unbelievable and that attitude carried over to everything else they did during the preseason."

Waters is also known for his personal style, annually ranking among the nation's top dressers on the sidelines. In fact, he edged Villanova's Jay Wright to win the national title in the 2008 Runway To The Fashionable Four, an online fashion rankings similar to the NCAA Tournament that is conducted annually by In 2007, he lost in the national semi-finals.

A Gary Waters-led basketball program places a strong emphasis on character and discipline and his family-oriented approach, combined with an up-tempo game that relies on fundamentals and relentless defensive pressure have paid huge dividends during his coaching career.

Waters, who has coached at the collegiate level for the last 34 years, first came to northeast Ohio in the spring of 1996 when he took over as head coach at Kent State University. He led the Golden Flashes to a 92-60 record in five seasons from 1996-2001, including a 70-25 mark over his final three campaigns.

Inheriting a program that had managed just one winning season in the previous seven years and had never been to the NCAA Tournament and made just three NIT appearances in its first 80 seasons, Waters went to work building a program that continues to win even seven seasons after he left the campus.

Waters' impact on the Kent State program became evident in his third season (1998-99) when he guided the Golden Flashes to a school-record 23 wins (23-7), winning the Mid-American Conference tournament championship for the first time and receiving its first-ever NCAA Tournament bid. The Flashes went on to drop a 61-54 decision to 20th-ranked Temple in a first round game in Boston.

Kent State matched the program record for wins in 1999-2000, posting a 23-8 record that included a trip to the NIT quarterfinal round. Waters is one of only three coaches in the history of the Mid-American Conference to earn MAC Coach of the Year honors in successive seasons, receiving the award in both 1999 and 2000.

Waters made his last season at Kent State (2000-01) a memorable one, leading the Flashes to a school-record 24 wins (24-10 overall) and the Mid-American Conference regular season and tournament championships. KSU provided the NCAA Tournament with one of its biggest upsets that year as the 13th-seeded Flashes upended fourth-seeded Indiana, 77-73. KSU fell to No. 2 seed Cincinnati in the second round.

Even though Waters moved to Rutgers for the 2001-02 season, his impact on the Kent State program is still evident today as the Golden Flashes have won 20 or more games in each of the seven seasons since he left. Kent State has also made three more NIT and three NCAA appearances, including a trip to the Elite Eight of the NCAAs in the first season after Waters left (2001-02).

The move to Rutgers led to some quick results as the Scarlet Knights went 18-13 in Waters' first season (2001-02), making only their third post-season appearance in 11 seasons when they faced Yale in the first round of the NIT.

Two years later (2003-04), Rutgers won 20 games for the first time since 1981-82, claiming wins over Temple, West Virginia, Villanova and Iowa State to advance to the championship game of the NIT.

In his final season in Piscataway (2005-06), Waters led Rutgers to 19 wins and its third NIT appearance in his five seasons, upending Penn State in the first round before falling to Saint Joseph's in the second round.

With Quincy Douby ranking sixth in the nation in scoring (25.4 ppg), the Scarlet Knights claimed four wins over NCAA-bound teams (Marquette, Seton Hall twice & Kent State) and when they knocked off No. 22 Louisville, it marked the eighth time that a Rutgers team coached by Gary Waters defeated a ranked opponent.

Douby would go on to become a first round selection (19th pick) of the Sacramento Kings in the 2006 NBA Draft.

A native of Detroit, Mich., Waters received honorable mention All-America as well as all-region and all-conference honors while playing two seasons from 1970-72 at Oakland (Mich.) Community College. He transferred to Ferris State in 1972, becoming an NAIA all-district selection and first team all-league choice in 1973-74.

In his two seasons at Ferris State, he helped the team to a 47-10 record, winning a pair of Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) titles.

Waters attended the preseason camp of the NBA's Detroit Pistons in 1974 before eventually playing professionally overseas in Spain that year. He returned to Ferris State to earn his bachelor's degree in business administration in 1975. He later earned a master's degree in educational administration from Central Michigan in 1976 and a second bachelor's degree in business education from Ferris State in 1978.

Waters returned to Ferris State in 1974-75 to begin his coaching career, starting a 15-year tenure as an assistant under head coaches Jim Wink (1974-78) and Tom Ludwig (1979-89).

The Bulldogs amassed a 267-144 record with Waters as an assistant coach, making four NCAA appearances, earning six GLIAC titles and winning 20 or more games six times. Waters also coached the FSC junior varsity team from 1975-78.

Waters moved across the state in the spring of 1989 to join the staff of Ben Braun at Eastern Michigan University. Waters served as the assistant head coach from 1989-93, and was associate head coach for the final three seasons. During that time, the Eagles compiled a 127-87 record and captured two Mid-American Conference titles. EMU earned two NCAA Tournament bids during his tenure, defeating Mississippi State and Penn State to advance to the Sweet 16 in 1991 and knocking off Duke in the opening round in 1996.

Kent State beckoned shortly after the Eagles were eliminated by top-seeded Connecticut in the second round, giving the 22-year assistant coach his first head coaching opportunity.

Waters' coaching experience also includes leading an all-star team to the 1988-89 Mexican International Tournament, where the squad won the event with an 8-0 record. In 1981, he coached the Detroit AAU national team that won all eight games en route to winning the Canadian National Tournament. Waters also has been a speaker at numerous camps and clinics around the country, including a clinic for FIBA, the International Basketball Federation, which was held in Frankfort, Germany.

In June, 2001, Waters had the distinction of serving as one of eight court coaches for the 2001 USA Basketball Men's National Team Trials at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. The following year, Waters also served as an assistant coach for the 2002 USA Junior World Championship Qualifying Team, which competed in the Confederation of Pan American Basketball Associations (COPABA) Men's Junior World Championship Qualifying Tournament in Venezuela.

Waters is a member of the National Association of Basketball Coaches and the Black Coaches Association and is involved with many charitable organizations, including Coaches vs. Cancer. He represents the Horizon League on the NABC Congress, serving as the liaison between the NABC and the league head coaches. He was inducted into the Ferris State Athletic Hall of Fame in 2002 and the Kent State Varsity "K" Hall of Fame in 2006.

Waters and his wife, Bernadette, have two grown children, son Sean and daughter, Seena, and four grandchildren. They reside in Westlake.



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