Monson’s boss says timing of ouster at Long Beach State was designed to inspire March Madness run

Long Beach State head coach Dan Monson participates in a net cutting ceremony after his team played an NCAA college basketball game against UC Davis in the championship of the Big West Conference men's tournament Saturday, March 16, 2024, in Henderson, Nev. Long Beach State won 74-70. (AP Photo/Ronda Churchill)

Long Beach State head coach Dan Monson participates in a net cutting ceremony after his team played an NCAA college basketball game against UC Davis in the championship of the Big West Conference men’s tournament Saturday, March 16, 2024, in Henderson, Nev. Long Beach State won 74-70. (AP Photo/Ronda Churchill)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Long Beach State’s athletic director said the timing of his decision to part ways with coach Dan Monson was done with the hope it might trigger the exact run that led the team on its unexpected trip to March Madness.

“My belief and hope is that by doing what I did and the timing of it, they would play inspired, and that’s what they did,” Bobby Smitheran told The Associated Press on Thursday, a few hours before the Beach tipped off against Arizona. “I’m not trying to pat myself on the back, but it worked.”

Monson’s job status has been one of the most intriguing stories leading into the first round of the NCAA Tournament. He and Smitheran agreed to part ways last Monday, on the heels of a five-game losing streak. The team responded last weekend by capturing the Big West Tournament to earn an unexpected trip to March Madness.

Smitheran said too much has been made of the notion that Monson was fired.

“I don’t buy into that narrative,” he said. “I think this is really getting lost on people, that we agreed that a change in leadership was necessary. This was something Coach Monson brought to me.”

Monson has never suggested otherwise and has handled the situation with class. On Wednesday, he quipped that he’s working for free now, and loving it because of the outpouring of support he’s received from his players, friends and family.

“I keep using the word ‘surreal,’” Monson said. “Twilight zone might be part true. It’s been awesome.”

Several coaches in Salt Lake City this week — including Monson’s friend, Mark Few of Gonzaga — have been less charitable, suggesting an AD should let things play out before announcing a separation in the middle of the season.

Smitheran, who is in his first year at Long Beach State after a successful stretch as an executive at San Diego State, said the big picture is that he wants the Beach to be in the hunt for tournament bids every year. This is Long Beach State’s first NCAA appearance since 2012. Monson has been there since 2007.

“My job is to position our coaches and student athletes to be successful,” Smitheran said. “This was maybe an atypical way to do so. But I believed in the roster we had, I believed in our coaching staff and our ability to do something special. Maybe this was the catalyst they needed to be inspired to play for one another.”

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

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