Lame-duck LBSU coach: 'I'm a 'Seinfeld' episode'


SALT LAKE CITY — As Dan Monson was sitting down for his pre-NCAA tournament news conference Wednesday deep inside the Delta Center, he couldn’t help but make light of his situation: getting fired March 11 and then leading Long Beach State to the NCAA tournament five days later.

“I don’t have to answer anything I don’t want to because I’m working for free today,” Monson quipped. “Did you see the ‘Seinfeld’ when George was trying to get fired and couldn’t lose his job, still going to work every day? That’s me. I’m a ‘Seinfeld’ episode going on right now in real life.”

With the jokes out of the way, Monson, 62, then peeled back the curtain on the emotions of the past nine days.

He said it’s been “surreal” and that it feels like he’s in the “twilight zone” as he’s navigated the ups and downs. However, to Monson, the experience of telling his players he was fired, regrouping ahead of the Big West tournament, going to Las Vegas and winning it and being in Salt Lake City has been “worth every job I’ve ever had, to have the experiences I’ve had this week with my players, with my family, spiritually, everything.”

Monson, who was fired from Minnesota in 2006, didn’t want to go as far as thanking Long Beach State for firing him, but he has tried to make the most out of an odd situation.

“I think life is life,” Monson said. “Some of it is good and some of it is bad. How you pivot through it defines who you are. I’m hoping that people look at me and say, ‘Hey, he had a great job. What are we feeling sorry for him for? He had 17 years driving that car. It was a great ride.’

“I knew the car was leased. I mean, they wanted the keys back. It’s not insured this week but I still get to drive it. I’m going to try to keep it on the road, the road to the Final Four. I’m going to try to keep it on there.”

He added: “It’s been a life-changing week in a good way.”

But it hasn’t been easy.

Long Beach State junior forward Lassina Traore described it as a “tough week” and said the players were in “real shock” after Monson told them he was fired.

“In the locker room, everybody was real sad because we weren’t expecting that,” Traore said.

When he told the team he was fired, Monson tried to unite his players for the upcoming Big West tournament, using his firing and the decision to let him keep coaching as a rallying point.

“I said to them, ‘Look, we still have this week. We have to respect their decision, but they also could have not given us this week. I have a gratitude toward having this week because a lot of coaches, when they’re done, they’re done, so let’s take advantage of this week,'” Monson explained.

Long Beach State’s schedule on March 11 was to watch film and shoot around. Monson, however, gave his players a choice between taking the day to process what happened or watching a little film.

“I said, ‘We’re in this together now. This is us against everybody else,'” Monson said.

The players asked Monson for a few minutes to themselves, and during the 30-minute players-only meeting, they decided they didn’t want to let Monson down, Traore said.

“We just used that as motivation to start playing better like we never done it before,” Traore said. “We just wanted to send him off in a better way.”

After a half-hour, Monson received a text: The players wanted to watch film.

It was emotional for some, Monson said. Sniffling could be heard in the dark while the film rolled. Hours after learning of his coaching fate, Monson was back to coaching, tough love and all. Bonding together wasn’t going to be enough, he told his players. They had to improve their defense, he said during the film study — but he didn’t let go of his sense of humor.

During one clip, Monson pointed out that a player didn’t close out the shooter well enough.

“The guy is wide-open,” Monson said. “We don’t get a contest.

“These are the kind of plays that get a coach fired.”

The room broke out in laughs.

“It started right there,” Monson said. “It was like, ‘OK, we’re going to be alright.'”

But Monson wasn’t exactly prescient in his prediction. The following day, Long Beach State’s practice was “terrible.” And Monson didn’t tread lightly.

“I think life is life. Some of it is good and some of it is bad. How you pivot through it defines who you are. I’m hoping that people look at me and say, ‘Hey, he had a great job. What are we feeling sorry for him for? He had 17 years driving that car. It was a great ride.’ I knew the car was leased. I mean, they wanted the keys back. It’s not insured this week but I still get to drive it. I’m going to try to keep it on the road, the road to the Final Four.”

299

Long Beach State coach Dan Monson

“I told them afterwards, ‘Don’t cry in the locker room and say this bothers you, then come out and not practice well. Something’s got to be different for us to be different,'” Monson said.

When the team got off the bus at a Las Vegas-area high school on March 13 to practice ahead of the Big West tournament, Monson had a message for his players: “Be different today.”

That worked.

Long Beach State had one of its best practices of the year, which sparked three straight wins to clinch the Big West tournament title and keep Monson’s lame-duck season alive.

And awaiting him in Salt Lake City could be, perhaps, the best send-off Monson could have asked for.

On Thursday, Long Beach State will face Arizona, coached by Tommy Lloyd, whom Monson had offered a coaching job on his Gonzaga staff. By the time Lloyd was ready to take it, Monson was coaching at the University of Minnesota and Mark Few, who was Monson’s top assistant at Gonzaga, had been promoted to head coach. Few honored Monson’s offer to Lloyd, who ended up being an assistant at Gonzaga for 21 years.

Now they’re all together in Salt Lake City.

The three coaches and their families went to dinner Tuesday night, where they reminisced and told stories.

“Those are the things you just cherish,” Monson said. “Something I’ve reflected on this week.”

Monson showed up a few minutes late and Lloyd tried to give him a hard time.

“I said, ‘Tommy, we’ve been putting in that Princeton offense for three days,'” Monson joked. “‘It’s complicated. It took a little extra time today.'”

Speaking to reporters Wednesday ahead of the NCAA tournament, Lloyd said of Monson, “I know he’s going through a tough time but he’s handling it with incredible grace.”

Few described the situation as “worthy of a Disney show or something,” and praised Monson’s classiness while also pointing the finger at Long Beach State.

“I’m hoping it’s a lesson for all those athletic directors out there to maybe take a pause once in a while and realize these jobs are hard and sometimes, when you got a good guy there, hang with it,” Few said. “I watched how he’s handled it. I just admire how there’s no bitterness whatsoever. He’s just handled it in a real, real classy way.

“I mean, I can’t say the same maybe for Long Beach State. It’s ridiculous.”



Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top