March Madness: Long Beach State AD says he fired Dan Monson hoping the team 'would play inspired, and that's what they did'

Long Beach State athletic director Bobby Smitheran says his plan came together.

Smitheran fired longtime men’s basketball coach Dan Monson after the school ended the regular season on a five-game losing streak. Long Beach State then went on to win the Big West tournament to earn a spot in the NCAA tournament as a No. 15 seed against No. 2 Arizona.

And according to Smitheran, he was hoping the team would play better knowing Monson wasn’t coming back.

“My belief and the hope is that by doing what I did and the timing of it, they would play inspired, and that’s what they did,” Smitheran told the Associated Press. “I’m not trying to pat myself on the back, but it worked.”

In case you’re wondering if Smitheran was just speaking off the cuff to the AP on Thursday, he also expressed a similar sentiment to Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Eisenberg earlier in the week during an interview for Eisenberg’s excellent story about Monson’s unique status entering the tournament.

“I wanted him to finish out the season and I was really hopeful that by making the decision when we made it, it would embolden his team to go out and compete for their coach,” Smitheran told Eisenberg. “I believe that gave them a shot in the arm.”

While Smitheran is surely not the first athletic director to make a coaching change with the hope of a team’s performance improving, his willingness to say that’s why he made a coaching change is certainly unique. It’s nearly unprecedented for an athletic director to directly say that improved performance was why he fired a coach.

The five-game losing streak to end the regular season dropped Long Beach State to 18-14 overall and 10-10 in the Big West. The Beach ended the season fifth in the conference before taking down UC Riverside, UC Irvine and UC Davis to win the Big West tournament for the first time since 2012.

However, Long Beach State's time in the tournament — and Monson's time as the school's head coach — ended on Thursday. The Beach lost 85-65 to the Wildcats in the first round on Thursday. Monson ends his LBSU career with a 275-273 record since taking over ahead of the 2007-08 season.