LBSU eyes tourney berth after coach's dismissal

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Just days after agreeing to a “mutual separation” with Long Beach State when the season ends, coach Dan Monson has his squad in the Big West title game and a win away from an improbable NCAA tournament berth.

Long Beach State defeated top-seed UC Irvine 83-79 Friday night to advance to Saturday’s final against UC Davis (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2).

Monson told ESPN after Friday’s win that the whole situation has been “surreal.” On Monday, Long Beach State announced that it had decided to part ways with Monson as soon as the season ends.

“On behalf of the entire Long Beach State community, I would like to thank Coach Monson for his 17 seasons of service to Beach Athletics and his many contributions to our men’s basketball program,” LBSU athletic director Bobby Smitheran said in a statement. “As the all-time leader in career victories, he has positively impacted countless student-athletes to strive athletically and academically, and he leaves our program in great shape to continue our pursuit for championships.”

In his statement Monday, Monson said, “It’s time for a new voice.”

That ending might have to wait, however, until the NCAA tournament as Monson’s time at Long Beach State has been extended with an unexpected trip to the conference title game and a shot at the automatic berth.

“Being in it is one thing, winning it is another and we’re happy,” Monson told the Orange County Register after the win. “We feel like we deserve it, but we’re not done. We didn’t come here to get to the championship game. We came here to go to the NCAA tournament.”

March is always a brutal month for coaches on the hot seat. This week, in both men’s and women’s basketball, multiple coaches have been fired immediately after their final games and have had to address the situation during postgame news conferences.

Monson could, however, still be coaching after Selection Sunday if his team wins Saturday, despite already knowing his fate.

The longtime LBSU coach, who was hired before the 2007-08 season, had not made the NCAA tournament since 2011-12. One of the team’s highlights this season, before Friday’s win, was a road win over Bronny James and USC in December.

Long Beach State had been on a five-game losing streak entering the conference tournament. It now has won two in a row. A third-straight victory by the Beach would be the very definition of March Madness.

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