The Long Beach State men’s basketball team has logged a lot of travel miles in the last 12 years under coach Dan Monson. He took his team around the country to play some of the best programs and put his program on the map, but a contract extension last year included a shift in philosophy that will keep the Beach more local in upcoming seasons.
Although LBSU will play all but two of its 2019-2020 regular season games in California, this young squad full of new faces will get plenty of travel miles when Monson takes them to Costa Rica in August for an eight-day trip full of sightseeing, community service and basketball.
“The closer it gets the more excited I get because we can get this group together and by themselves and working on bonding with each other,” Monson said.
Monson has only taken one preseason international trip as a head coach and it came at the worst possible time. After two years of leading Gonzaga to the NCAA Tournament, Monson took over the Minnesota program in the summer of 1999. The Gophers already had a trip to France planned for the week after Monson took the job.
“The players hated it,” Monson said. “They didn’t appreciate it, and none of them even wanted to go to the Eiffel Tower. They spent a couple hundred thousand dollars on the trip. I told myself I’d never waste money on something like that again. When I came to Long Beach I didn’t think it was cost effective for what I got out of the one I did.”
LBSU athletics director Andy Fee changed Monson’s mind with a simple conversation earlier this year.
“It was Andy’s idea and he said ‘it’s up to you, but you have nine new guys this year and it’s a perfect time to do it’ and that set off a bell in my head,” Monson said. “This is the perfect time to get these new players together to change the culture of our program.”
LBSU will play three international exhibition games against local competition in Costa Rica, but with only four returning letter winners and nine newcomers, Monson wants to put a premium on team chemistry.
“Off the court is way more important than the games we’ll play on the court,” Monson said. “I want us to focus more on doing the little things right and not worry about the execution of our offense or defense. It’s about how hard we play and how much we play together. It’s about trusting each other.”
The international trip also gives LBSU an additional 10 practice days per NCAA rules that allow an offseason international tour once every four years per program. Monson said that practice time is important for team leaders to emerge.
“As a coach it’s your job to build that culture but also every team is like every individual,” he said. “They have their own personality. You have to let them be who they are. But we have the time to do that on this trip. They’ll have time to build that personality.”
Monson added that juniors Jordan Roberts, Drew Cobb and Colin Slater have already taken over leadership roles.
LBSU opens the season at UCLA on Nov. 6, and Homecoming at Walter Pyramid is Nov. 9 against San Diego.