A Ferris State University alum has guided Cleveland State to an NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament berth as former Bulldog men's basketball player and assistant coach Gary Waters led the Vikings to the Horizon League Tournament Championship on Tuesday (March 10) night at historic Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Ind.
Waters' squad posted a 57-54 live television upset of nationally 17th-ranked Butler to receive the league's automatic berth into the NCAA Tourney. The win gave Cleveland State the program's first conference tourney title in his three seasons at the helm and the school's first NCAA berth in 23 years since 1986. That year, as a No. 14 seed, the Vikings knocked off Bobby Knight's Indiana Hoosiers and made the regional semifinals.
CSU improved to 25-10 overall this season and will wait until Sunday to find out where, when and who they will be playing in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. The 25 wins under Waters this campaign are tied for the second most in school-history, trailing only the 29 wins by the 1986-87 squad. Cleveland State went 10-21 in Waters' first season at the helm, but has since posted back-to-back 20-win seasons, including 21-13 a season ago and a berth in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) when Waters was tabbed as the Horizon League Co-Coach of the Year.
Prior to his Cleveland State appointment, Waters served for five seasons (2001-06) as the head coach at Rutgers University. He led the Scarlet Knights to three appearances in the NIT and a 79-74 overall record at Rutgers. Before Rutgers, he led Kent State (Ohio) to national prominence, earning two NCAA Tournament bids and one NIT berth in his five seasons.
Waters received his coaching start at Ferris after a successful playing career from 1972-74. He was an NAIA All-District selection as a star player and in two years led the team to a 47-10 record under head coach Jim Wink. As a senior, he averaged 12.4 points and 5.7 rebounds per game for the 1973-74 Great Lakes Conference champions while earning all-conference accolades. Waters also helped the Bulldogs garner a NAIA National Tournament berth as a junior.
Waters served from 1975-89 as an assistant coach for the Bulldogs under Wink and Tom Ludwig. He then joined Eastern Michigan University as an assistant and later associate head coach from 1989-96. Hired in 1996 by NCAA-I member Kent State, Waters led the Golden Flashes to three post-season berths and was twice named Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year in his first stint as a head coach. Kent State reached its first NCAA Tournament in 1999, advanced to the NIT's Elite Eight in 2000 and upset Indiana in the first round of the 2001 "Big Dance."
A native of Detroit, Mich., Waters moved to Rutgers for the 2001-02 season, leading the Scarlet Knights to an 18-13 record, making only their third post-season appearance in 11 seasons. Two years later, Rutgers won 20 games for the first time since 1981-82, including wins over Temple, West Virginia, Villanova and Iowa State to advance to the championship game of the NIT. In his final season, Rutgers made its third NIT appearance under Waters.
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 CollegeInsider.com. In 2007, he lost in the national semi-finals.
Waters attended the preseason camp of the Detroit Pistons in 1974 before eventually playing professionally overseas in Spain. He returned to Ferris State to earn his bachelor's degree 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 and his wife Bernadette have two grown children, son Sean and daughter, Seena, along with four grandchildren.
The Detroit native was an all-city basketball, football and track athlete at MacKenzie High School during his prep career. Waters was inducted into the Bulldog Athletics Hall of Fame in 2002.
Photo Courtesy of Cleveland State Athletics Website (www.csuvikings.com)