SALT LAKE CITY – Is reality humorless enough to go ahead and snuff out the story of the coach who was fired on March 11, but then coached his team to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament on March 16, arriving here at March Madness and compared his fate to the ‘Seinfeld’ episode where George tries to get fired but fails?

No sooner had the Mountain time zone been reached on Thursday afternoon than reality set in and tapped 62-year-old Dan Monson on the shoulder. It had come in the waves of Arizona talent that swept through Long Beach State until it tore over them, 17-2 to start the second half and 85-65 to end it. For an Arizona team more capable of the picturesque, lobs for jam went from Caleb Love to Keshad Johnson and from Kylan Boswell to Oumar Ballo.

Then the seconds flew by and Monson hugged a coach from Arizona, the same man he once hired at Gonzaga in the late 1990s, and walked slowly off the corner of the Delta Center field to the applause of the small group of Long Beach State fans . He blew kisses – one with the right hand, one with the left hand, one with the right hand. He called himself “the luckiest man in this tournament and the world to do what I have to do today with these guys (players).”

It ended five days after things got spicy when The Beach won the Big West tournament near Las Vegas, leaving Monson to complete his seventeenth season, and one day after Monson took that interview stage to discuss the dying art of coaching. practice humor. He sat down and said, “I don’t have to answer anything I don’t want to because I’m working for free today,” and the listeners giggled. He mentioned that on the day of the firing, he showed game film to his distressed players, pointing out bad plays and saying, “Plays like this get a coach fired,” to which those listeners laughed. And he shared one of the more admirably told jokes in existence.

Tuesday night, the Monsons and the Gonzaga Fews and the Arizona Lloyds, all connected since the men were Gonzaga coaches, gathered here for pizza.

Tommy Lloyd feigned protest.

“I said, ‘Tommy, we’ve been dealing with that Princeton offense for three days,’” Monson said.

Considering Arizona’s 59-55 loss to Princeton to start last year’s Madness, that was cold, cold language.

Of course there was love on Thursday, so I said to Tommy at the end: if it has to be my last match, at least it will be with family.

As March love passes, Long Beach State guard Jadon Jones already had a mighty string tied. “If you saw the locker room,” he said, “you would see a family,” and while that is a usual March chorus, here came the rest: “We love each other. We love this game. We love Coach. We love the media team. We love the concierges. We love the staff. We love the families: Mama Darci (Monson’s wife), Maddox (one of Monson’s players), MicGuire (one of Monson’s graduate assistants), Mollie (Monson’s daughter), McKenna (Monson’s daughter ). We love everyone. All the women, everyone who has been on this ride with us, they have been absolutely complementary to what we have been able to achieve.

All of that had the chance to swamp the gauche words of new athletics director Bobby Smitheran, who was hired in August, after he told the Associated Press, “My belief and hope is that by doing what I did and the timing of it, would play inspired. , and that’s what they did. I’m not trying to pat myself on the back, but it worked.”

If that’s the case, a new hire next week would lead to creativity.

Monson, of course, has been involved in the game since the last century. When Gonzaga had days as a glamorous national stranger, sending it to the 1999 Elite Eight and a real scandal there with eventual champion Connecticut. Then he left for Minnesota because it made sense at the time. He stayed there for eight years before being left in November 2007, leaving him glum, and he went to Long Beach State and took one of those jobs that the masses don’t notice. He became the school’s winningest coach, reaching the 2012 NCAA Tournament, winning four Big West regular season titles and winning four Coach of the Year awards. Then he and his family lost five straight games to end the regular season and dropped to 18-14 and 10-10 in the league, before limping into the conference tournament as a No. 4 seed with a fired coach.

They then defeated No. 5 UC Riverside 86-67.

They then defeated No. 1 UC Irvine 83-79.

Then they defeated No. 2 UC Davis 74-70.

That got them here and into the predicament that allowed Monson to say, “It’s been a great ride. I knew the car was leased. I mean, they wanted the keys back. This week I am not insured, but I am allowed to drive it.”

Then Monson came to coach one last time, which might not be the last time, and the teams lined up for the national anthem and approached each other to hug, and Monson greeted Lloyd as the PA played and sang Aloe Blacc : ‘So wake me up when it’s all over.

Then the game started to turn and Monson slammed his hand on the scorer’s table three times after a poor shot selection. The Beach led 22-17, but the three-point shots started to tilt until Arizona finished at 13 for 35 (37.1 percent) and Long Beach State at 3 for 17 (17.6 percent). Arizona made its run and the thing distilled into filler — except Monson kept instructing players.

Then the coach who was fired but couldn’t be fired left, driving past a Dayton team eager to join the churn for the next game, and Lloyd spoke warmly of Monson saying he wanted to kick his ass to give. Jones said: “But it’s not really a goodbye. Like I said, we are a family. That will never go away, because love is unconditional. It doesn’t matter how far he goes, I go, the other thirteen guys in the locker room go. It’s not a goodbye, it’s more of a ‘I’ll see you when I see you.’ “To be continued,” he said in the locker room.”

Monson’s family stood off to the side listening, and he finally concluded, “Not really in a joking mood. Yesterday was more fun.”

There’s that damned old reality, and soon everyone—players in black sweats with yellow lettering “The Beach,” coaches, managers, family—walked out of the locker room, down the hall, and a security guard spoke kind words to Monson, and the Coach and Darci left yet another arena to take three buses and boarded the bus marked ‘LB#1’, after 17 years to a dizzying week and one last bus.

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