Long Beach State eyes NCAA tourney bid after coach fired

Days after agreeing to a „mutual split” with Long Beach State when the season ends, coach Dan Monson has his team in the Big West title game and one win away from an unlikely NCAA Tournament berth.

Long Beach State defeated top-seeded UC Irvine 83-79 on 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 was „very surreal.” On Monday, Long Beach State announced it had decided to part ways with Monson after the season.

„On behalf of the entire Long Beach State community, I want to thank Coach Monson for his 17 seasons with Beach Athletics and his many contributions to our men's basketball program,” LBSU Athletic Director Bobby Smitheran said in a statement. „The all-time leader in career wins, he has positively influenced countless student-athletes to strive athletically and academically, and he leaves our program in great shape to continue our quest for championships.”

„It's time for a new voice,” Monson said in his statement Monday.

That decision, however, will have to wait until Monson's time at Long Beach State extends an unexpected trip to the conference title game and a shot at an automatic berth during the NCAA tournament.

„It's one thing to be in it, it's another thing to win, and we're happy,” Monson told the Orange County Register after the win. „We feel like we deserved 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.”

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

However, with his fate already known, Monson could remain the coach after Selection Sunday if his team wins on Saturday.

The longtime LBSU coach, who was hired prior to the 2007-08 season, has not competed in the NCAA Tournament since 2011-12. One of the team's highlights this season was a road win against Bronie James and USC in December before Friday's win.

Long Beach State entered the conference tournament on a five-game losing streak. It has now won two in a row. A third straight win for the Coast would be the definition of March Madness.

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