Long Beach State’s AD claims he fired coach Dan Monson ‘to inspire team’

In one of the stranger stories in college basketball this March, Long Beach State’s head basketball coach was told he would be let go at the end of the season — right before the team went on a run in the Big West Tournament to get a bid to the NCAA Tournament.

The school’s athletic director, Bobby Smitheran, told the Associated Press on Thursday before the school’s loss to Arizona that he fired coach Dan Monson in hopes it would trigger the exact run on that the team went on.

“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,” Smitheran told the outlet. “I’m not trying to pat myself on the back, but it worked.”

Long Beach State’s AD fired its head basketball coach before they went on a run to win the Big West Tournament Getty Images

Smitheran announced last Monday that Monson would be done after the season while Long Beach State was in the throes of a five-game losing streak.

Monson stayed on staff to coach until the end of the season, and the team rewarded him with a run through the Big West Tournament in which they beat fifth-seeded University of California Riverside, No. 1 UC Irvine and No. 2 UC Davis en route to the championship.

“If it helped, I’m really happy we did it because I wouldn’t trade it for the job or any other job. I’ve said that all along,” Monson told reporters. “If that’s what spurred it [being dismissed], that’s great. But we’ll never know ’cause that’s how it played out. We’ll never know if it did or not. It’s not really worth talking about.”

Smitheran said he and Monson came to a mutual agreement that a change in leadership was needed.

“I don’t buy into that narrative,” Smitheran said of the timing of the firing. “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.”

Long Beach State, the 15-seed in the West region, put up a fight but wound up on the wrong side of an lost 85-65 loss to Arizona.

Dan Monson was fired after 17 years at Long Beach State USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

Monson didn’t focus on his team’s loss in his postgame press conference.

“My stance this week doesn’t change: I’m the luckiest guy in this tournament in the world to do what I got to do today with these guys,” Monson said. “I’m proud, happy, reflective … mostly proud. Proud of my tenure. I’m proud of doing it the right way. Proud of the student-athletes that came out of here, that came in as young men, left as men… I think proud is the most.

“Proud of just who I am. Proud of my family, too, by the way. … It’s a tough couple weeks. I couldn’t imagine it without them.”

Monson has been the head coach at Long Beach since 2007.

This was the team’s second NCAA Tournament appearance in his tenure, the first coming in 2012.

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