The last two years of Long Beach State men’s basketball have been equal parts frustrating and heartbreaking for its fans, supporters, players and coaches.
Last year an injury-riddled season was followed by most of the returning starting lineup transferring out of school. This season, a rebuilt roster struggled through an inconsistent campaign that ended with a historic first-round loss to CSU Fullerton in the Big West Conference Tournament.
Questions about the future of the program have come to the forefront because everyone wants to know what will happen with 11th-year coach Dan Monson’s contract, and I think the university only has three options as it pertains to its winningest coach in program history.
Monson’s current contract runs through the end of next season, and LBSU athletics director Andy Fee said he will meet with Monson in the coming days to discuss the future. LISTEN to The LB Fee Show.
The first option for Fee is letting Monson coach the last year of his deal without an extension, but he shouldn’t do that. It’s not good for the program because good players don’t commit to universities with lame duck coaches, and it’s not good for Monson because he loses all leverage.
The second option is to extend Monson’s contract by a few years to solidify his position at the school, and on the recruiting trail.
The third option is to buy out the remainder of Monson’s guaranteed contract, and go in a different direction with a new coach.
I think expectations shape reality, and right now LBSU fans expect to reach the NCAA Tournament every year. They just differ on how to make that happen.
Winning three conference tournament games at Honda Center in March is the only way for a Big West program to reach March Madness. LBSU has reached the Big West championship game once since winning it in 2012, the only NCAA Tournament trip under Monson. The 49ers are 5-6 in the conference tournament during that stretch with five semifinal appearances while seven different schools have gone won the title.
I think everyone, including Monson, would say that’s not good enough. But it also must be said that the program is better than when Monson took it over in 2007. He may just be a victim of his own success.
However, I also think we all know that the deciding factor here will be money.
Monson’s contract has been widely reported because of the way he gets paid. Some of the money made by playing elite schools on the road, or “buy-games”, goes to Monson and his staff. That’s how former LBSU athletics director Vic Ceglas was able to afford Monson. Three years ago, the Los Angeles Times reported that his base salary is $341,562 with incentives and a retention bonus of about $110,000, making him the highest paid coach in the Big West.
LBSU president Jane Close Conoley said last year, “we have an expensive basketball coach,” and the numbers support that.
No matter what decision is made, everyone is about to find out the amount of money LBSU is comfortable with spending on a men’s basketball coach. That number will answer any question as to where expectations should be in the future.