GONZAGA

The coach who started Gonzaga’s rise returns to WA with EWU

Apr 12, 2024, 6:25 PM | Updated: 6:35 pm

Dan Monson EWU coach...

Head coach Dan Monson of the Long Beach State 49ers during a 2024 NCAA Tournament practice. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Dan Monson, the coach who was at the helm when the Gonzaga men’s basketball team started its streak of 25 straight NCAA Tournament appearances, is returning to Washington.

In fact, he’s about as close as he could be to his old program.

New WSU coach David Riley embraces uncertainty with Cougars

The 62-year-old Monson was announced as the new head coach of the Eastern Washington University Eagles on Friday night. EWU is located in Cheney, Wash., with its home basketball arena, Reese Court, located not even 20 miles from the Zags’ McCarthey Athletic Center in Spokane.

Over 27 seasons as a Division I head coach, Monson owns a 445-396 record and has led his teams to 13 postseason appearances. That includes four NCAA Tournament berths (1999, 2005, 2012 and 2024)

Monson, who was born in Spokane and spent much of his upbringing in eastern Washington, was head coach at Gonzaga for three seasons from 1997-99, including the Bulldogs’ Cinderella run to the Elite Eight in 1999 as a No. 10 seed. Following that season, Monson was hired by Minnesota, and one of his assistants, Mark Few, took over at Gonzaga. Few has since built the Zags into a perennial power.

“Eastern Washington University is a huge part of Spokane County and our region. Throughout the search for our next men’s basketball coach, it was important, for us, to identify a head coach who represented this area,” said Tim Collins, EWU associate vice president and director of athletics, in a press release. “While talking to Dan, it became clear that this region matters as much to him as Eastern does to it.”

Monson was at Minnesota from 1999 to 2007, then coached Long Beach State from 2007 until this year. He made headlines last month by leading Long Beach State to a Big West Tournament championship and NCAA Tournament berth after he’d already been told he would not be brought back by the school next season.

Long Beach State athletic director Bobby Smitheran decided that Monson would not return next season right before the Big West Tournament. After Monson’s team won the conference tournament to earn an unexpected NCAA tourney bid, Smitheran then told the AP that ousting Monson, who was on a four-game losing streak when the decision was made, was part of the plan to turn things around and landed the team in the tournament.

“That guy does not deserve that. He’s a great man,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd, a former Gonzaga assistant, said of his friend after beating Long Beach State in the tournament. “He deserves another job, another opportunity.”

Monson will get that opportunity not far from where his head coaching career started.

The EWU job came open with David Riley left last week to become the new WSU Cougars men’s basketball coach, a role that had been vacated the week prior when Kyle Smith left for Stanford after leading Wazzu to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 16 years. Under Riley, Eastern won the Big Sky regular season title each of the past two years but failed to make the NCAA Tournament due to upset losses in the Big Sky tourney.

The Eagles last made the men’s NCAAs in 2021, while the EWU women made the tournament this year for just the second time in program history.

This post includes contributions from an Associated Press article by Tim Booth.

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