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Despite March Madness’ Ouster, Monson Feels Love Even In Dark Times

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Despite March Madness' Ouster, Monson Feels Love Even In Dark Times

(CTN News) – The only coach whose team qualified for March Madness this season received much praise during his visit to the Final Four.

It’s needed. He says, “you do a lot of reflecting after a whirlwind trip to the NCAA Tournament,” and the process has been darker than he had hoped.

For decades, his dad, Don, has attended the Final Four coaching convention every year. Different. The bracket included 68 teams. One.

People in the lobby call March Madness Monson to congratulate him. With people I know well, I say, “Congratulations, but for what?” During the first week of the tournament, Monson’s story of losing his job and winning the Big West Tournament made him a talking point.

The next Monday and Tuesday, he met with his players after an 85-65 loss to Arizona. “Then Wednesday morning, I did nothing.”. I felt sick.” He mowed the lawn. Then he went about cleaning out his office – “That won’t be as hard next year,” he said.

When my kids were little, that was their play area. “They were six, four, two, and a newborn when I got this job. Last one’s a senior.” Moments of hope have broken his melancholy in a business that’s felt more like a calling than a job.

He only considered Brad Brownell, a March Madness acquaintance. Monson figured it was the usual scouting tips text from Brownell’s recruiting director Lucas McKay after Clemson lost to Arizona.

Tommy Lloyd is like family to Monson. Getting ready to tell Clemson’s coach he couldn’t help, he dialed. Brownell just wanted to make sure Monson had a ticket to Clemson’s Sweet 16 game in Los Angeles.

I wasn’t expecting it. “I just got emotional and couldn’t talk,” Monson said. Here’s a coach who’s been here 15 years. He needs a ticket to the biggest game of his career. This happened when I was in the dark.”

Smitheran drank a beer with Monson. Monson did not renew. The AD of March Madness removed Monson after losing four straight games.

Monson was only one year into his contract when Smitheran arrived, so he entered 2023 with only a year left. It’s likely he’ll need to go to the tournament this year. It wasn’t a waiting game. Monson said, “No fireable year.” There’s no point in wasting time, Monson said.

He’s got 27 years as a head coach, 445 wins, nine regular-season titles, and four trips to March Madness on his resume. His Zags have made 25 straight NCAA March Madness tournament appearances. NCAA purgatory for Long Beach State recruiters. We never had a police report, never had an ineligible kid, Monson said.

He realized he didn’t want to quit after the tournament. Mostly, to show everyone he’s not ashamed, to network, to help his assistant coaches find jobs, and to take his sons to games.

Monson said he did it “with integrity, within NCAA March Madness rules, and for the betterment of these young men.” He’s proud. I’ve got my head up this week because of that.”


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Alishba Waris is an independent journalist working for CTN News. She brings a wealth of experience and a keen eye for detail to her reporting. With a knack for uncovering the truth, Waris isn't afraid to ask tough questions and hold those in power accountable. Her writing is clear, concise, and cuts through the noise, delivering the facts readers need to stay informed. Waris's dedication to ethical journalism shines through in her hard-hitting yet fair coverage of important issues.

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