On his way to practice Sunday, Dan Monson took a brief visit down Sentimental Street. The last time he was here to coach a game, in March...
On his way to practice Sunday, Dan Monson took a brief visit down Sentimental Street.
The last time he was here to coach a game, in March 1999, Monson led Gonzaga to two wins at KeyArena to spark a run to the Elite Eight. That surge made Monson one of the hottest coaches in the nation.
“There’s a lot of memories here,” he said.
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Monson returns to Seattle as coach of a rebuilding Long Beach State team that is a heavy underdog against Washington in a 7:30 start tonight at Edmundson Pavilion.
After leaving Gonzaga shortly after the run that put the Zags on the road to college basketball prominence, Monson coached Minnesota for seven seasons and part of another. But he resigned under pressure last Nov. 30, with a record of 118-106 (44-68 in Big Ten play).
After the 2002 season, Monson had a chance to return to this area, turning down an opportunity to coach the Huskies. He came so close to accepting the job that UW officials were drawing up press releases before he decided to stay put. When he turned the job down, Washington hired Lorenzo Romar.
Monson admits that as a kid growing up in the state — his father, Don, was a high-school coach at Pasco and Cheney before getting college jobs at Idaho and Oregon — he dreamed of playing for the Huskies, and possibly coaching them, as well, and wonders at times how it would have turned out had he taken the job.
“I don’t know if regret is the right word,” he said Sunday. “You hate to say you regret something. Certainly, it was situation where I had to take a hard look at it. But you just never know. You can’t live your life as if it was a mistake. I gained a lot of valuable things out of Minnesota. I think I’m a better person for staying there and trying to persevere through it.”
Monson said one thing he couldn’t have known was how much greater a commitment UW has made to basketball in the past five years, including beefing up facilities.
“When I looked at this job it was a totally different job than it is now,” he said. “You can’t predict that.”
He feels similarly about leaving Gonzaga, saying he couldn’t have known all that would happen to turn the Zags into a perennial Top 25 team, including a new arena.
“I never regret [leaving Gonzaga] because when I left there, Gonzaga really made a strong commitment to elevate that program, like, ‘Hey, we are not going to let that [a coach leaving for another job] happen again,’ ” he said.
Monson was paid well at Minnesota — he reportedly got $1.3 million as part of his resignation settlement — and could have sat out for a while. But he said not coaching last winter made him realize “I really love coaching, and I wanted to get back into it.”
The Long Beach State job — for which he was selected from a pool of candidates that included Huskies assistant Cameron Dollar — provided Monson with a massive overhaul. The top nine scorers from last season’s NCAA tournament team departed, and the players who returned scored a total of 85 points last season. Long Beach State is 1-3, with a 74-34 loss to Brigham Young among its defeats.
“It’s kind of a tough situation right now,” said Monson, who said about 40 relatives and friends will be in attendance tonight, including his father. “[Tonight] will be a real difficult task for us.”
• Romar said before Sunday’s practice he planned to go with the same starting lineup as the NIT consolation final loss to Syracuse, which included freshman Matthew Bryan-Amaning at center.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org