Dan Monson not leaving the Beach just yet. He is heading to March Madness without a job next season

Sun, Mar 17, 2024

Dan Monson not leaving the Beach just yet. He is heading to March Madness without a job next season

Long Beach State was coming off five straight losses a week ago when coach Dan Monson and first-year athletic director Bobby Smitheran issued a joint statement announcing Monson would leave at the end of the season in what was framed as a mutual separation.

Well, the season is still going for the Beach and so is the 62-year-old Monson.

After sweeping three straight games to win the Big West Tournament, Long Beach State will make its first NCAA Tournament since 2012 as a No. 15 seed and play No. 2 Arizona in Salt Lake City on Thursday.

"I feel pretty blessed and lucky to ride with these guys," Monson said. "I've been to the NCAA Tournament. My wife said she's never had drugs in her life, but it's got to be a similar feeling, because it's a high I'm really excpecting these guys to enjoy and soak in."

This promises to be an emotional week for Monson and his players. After the Beach's 74-70 win over UC Davis, Aboubacar Traore and Lassina Traore called Monson's looming departure a firing and that they and their teammates would dedicate to him however many games they have left.

"This week, he could have easily said, 'Let's just play,' but he wanted to win and do his job to the end," Aboubacar said of the days before the Big West Tournament. "As a player, we couldn't see that and be like, 'They fired our coach, so we don't play no more. Let's just do whatever and go out in the first round.' When they tell you that you can't be here next year and you decide to do your job to the end, that's the key."

Monson is 275-272 in 17 seasons and last won a Big West regular-season title in 2022. He had won three straight from 2011-13 and had losing records seven of the next eight years. The Beach finished this season tied for fifth and will enter the NCAA Tournament 21-14.

Lassina Traore said he and other team leaders held a meeting after they were told Monson wouldn't return next year.

"We had to find another gear," Lassina said. "We know they fired him, and it's not only his fault; it's everybody's fault. We talked about it and said if they fire our coach, we have to have his back because we know he's not going to let us down."

Monson laid the groundwork for Gonzaga's rise to a national power, with his 1999 team winning 28 games and making a regional final. He spent eight seasons at Minnesota before landing at Long Beach State in 2007.

Mark Few, who took over for Monson at Gonzaga, relished watching his old boss extend his stay at the Beach.

"That was a glorious evening last night, just watching that," Few said. "It was incredible. Really cool to see. Everybody was fired up for that."


AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket and coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness

ERIC OLSON Olson is an Associated Press sports writer based in Omaha, Nebraska. He covers Nebraska, Creighton, the Big Ten and national college sports issues. twitter mailto "
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