ACC you later: Two Vikings assistants depart

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Cleveland State’s coaching staff, a model of consistency and stability over the last few seasons as the Vikings climbed the Horizon League standings, has been shaken up by its own success.

A job listing, posted to the university’s website on Friday, gave a first indication that CSU is seeking a pair of women’s basketball assistant coaches. Sources subsequently confirmed that the openings in the posting were created by the departures of Vikings assistant coaches Desma Thomas Bateast and Bob Dunn. Thomas Bateast has accepted a position at Florida State, while Dunn is headed even further south, to FSU rival Miami.

Thomas Bateast arrived in Cleveland for the 2020-21 season, and helped the Vikings navigate the second wave of COVID on the way to the program’s first-ever postseason championship, the 2021 Women’s Basketball Invitational title. That run through the WBI helped set the course for the even greater heights of a Horizon League title and an NCAA Tournament bid in 2022-23, which undoubtedly enhanced interest from around the nation. The move to Florida State, however, represents a return to her home state, as she played at the University of Miami and launched her coaching career at Florida International, South Florida and Florida Atlantic before a major geographic departure up to the Wolstein Center. At FSU, Thomas Bateast will try to help a perennial 20-win Seminoles program hit another level after losing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in each of the last three seasons.

Dunn, on the other hand, is a Northeast Ohio native who was hired to fill CSU’s most recent assistant coach opening, which came about when Katelin Oney left for Northern Iowa following the 2021 WBI win. He attended the University of Dayton and worked as a men’s basketball student manager, video coordinator and graduate assistant before stints as the women’s basketball video coordinator at Kentucky, then as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Wagner.

Six seasons at George Mason followed, where Dunn picked up scheduling and scouting coordinator duties, roles he would reprise with the Vikings over the last two seasons (no small ask, considering the last-minute pandemic postponements that persisted through most of 2021-22). Coincidentally, his new Hurricanes team just completed the deepest NCAA Tournament run in program history, an Elite Eight trip that involved defeating Villanova – the team that toppled Cleveland State in the first round, of course – in the Sweet Sixteen round before dropping a 12-point decision to eventual national champion LSU.

All of that leaves the Vikings with just one assistant coach at the moment, Frozena Jerro, who has been around since the beginning of the Chris Kielsmeier era.   

Replacing a coach, let alone two, after summer workouts have started isn’t an enviable task, though Kielsmeier certainly has a pair of aces he can play as needed. One, of course, is his program’s success and the resulting appeal of its positions, both in terms of job security and opportunities for career growth (as Thomas Bateast and Dunn can now attest).

The other is CSU’s commitment to the program, as evidenced by the contract extensions Kielsmeier signed following each of the last two seasons, which included increases to the salary pool for his five full-time staffers (including the three assistant coaches, director of basketball operations Shelby Zoeckler, and special assistant to the head coach Hanna Zerr). Other support staff positions have also been added in recent years, including Director of Basketball Sports Performance Curt Johnsen, who is shared with the Vikings men’s team.

UPDATE (JULY 1, 7:18 A.M): The departures of Thomas Bateast and Dunn have now been officially confirmed, thanks to a tweet by Cleveland State’s athletic director, Scott Garrett.

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