Long Beach State head coach Dan Monson reacts to an...

Long Beach State head coach Dan Monson reacts to an official's call during the second half of a first-round college basketball game against Arizona in the NCAA Tournament in Salt Lake City, Thursday, March 21, 2024. Credit: AP/Isaac Hale

SALT LAKE CITY — Long Beach State's athletic director said the timing of his decision to part with coach Dan Monson was done with the hope it might trigger the exact run that led the team on its unexpected trip to March Madness.

“My belief and hope is that by doing what I did and the timing of it, they would play inspired, and that's what they did,” Bobby Smitheran told The Associated Press before the Beach fell 85-65 to Arizona on Thursday to bring a close to Monson's tenure. “I'm not trying to pat myself on the back, but it worked.”

Monson's job status was one of the most intriguing stories leading into the first round of the NCAA Tournament. He and Smitheran agreed to part ways last Monday, on the heels of a five-game losing streak. The team responded last weekend by capturing the Big West Tournament to earn an unexpected trip to March Madness.

Smitheran said too much has been made of the notion that Monson was fired.

“I don't buy into that narrative,” he said. "I think this is really getting lost on people, that we agreed that a change in leadership was necessary. This was something Coach Monson brought to me.”

Monson mostly brushed off Smitheran's comments when asked about them after the game.

“If that’s what spurred it, that’s great," Monson said of the decision to let him go. “But we’ll never know, because that’s how it played out. We’ll never know if it did or not.”

Long Beach State head coach Dan Monson shouts during the...

Long Beach State head coach Dan Monson shouts during the second half of a first-round college basketball game against Arizona in the NCAA Tournament in Salt Lake City, Thursday, March 21, 2024. Credit: AP/Rick Bowmer

Monson's friend, Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd, joined a chorus of coaches who have criticized the move by Long Beach State.

“That guy does not deserve that. He’s a great man,” Lloyd said. “He deserves another job, another opportunity.”

Smitheran, who is in his first year at Long Beach State after a successful stretch as an executive at San Diego State, said the big picture is that he wants the Beach to be in the hunt for tournament bids every year. This is Long Beach State's first NCAA appearance since 2012. Monson has been there since 2007.

“My job is to position our coaches and student-athletes to be successful,” Smitheran said. “This was maybe an atypical way to do so. But I believed in the roster we had, I believed in our coaching staff and our ability to do something special. Maybe this was the catalyst they needed to be inspired to play for one another.”

SUBSCRIBE

Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months

ACT NOWSALE ENDS SOON | CANCEL ANYTIME ONLINE