Huskies Insider Blog

Long Beach (& former Zags) coach Monson: UW an elite-level program

Dan Monson took Gonzaga to the Elite Eight in 2002 and became a hot coaching property who got to choose between staying at Gonzaga or moving to either Washington or Minnesota.

He chose Minnesota, stayed for seven full seasons and resigned during a 2-5 start to the 2006 season.

He's at Long Beach State now, and will face Washington at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Hec Ed.

Naturally, it was a logical time to talk about what might have been. Here's some of that interview from this afternoon:On advice to current coach Mark Few about possibly leaving Gonzaga: "Mark and I have had that conversation 20 times, and every time I’ve told him the same thing: ‘You’re crazy to leave.’ It’s a different job now. And again, I don’t regret what I did, but I think he learned from what happened at Minnesota. But he’s got everything there. When I left, there wasn’t an opportunity to win a national championship or do the things to sustain it. … The school deserves a lot of credit for what they did, the resources that they provided there and elevated them to a major program with facilities and resources."

On whether UW also is at a level where a national title is possible: Absolutely. I felt that watching that Virginia game that they were – again, it’s so early in the season, but you watch Duke, you watch Michigan State, you watches these teams – and I felt that was the best game I had seen anybody play during the early season. Now, does that mean they’re going to win the national championship: No. But I think if it would have been played that day, there was nobody who played better in the preseason than they did against Virginia. And even the Kentucky and Michigan State game proves that they are at an elite level, because those games were one-possession games. They (showed) that they can play with anybody in the country and it’s going to be a matter of the team improving. Nobody wins a national championship in November or December. They’re going to have to keep going, but he’s certainly got them on the right track.

On whether UW and Gonzaga should play each other: This is home. If I was a fan – which I am, to the Northwest – I think it’s a great game. Am I an administrator? Am I Lorenzo and Mark? I’m not in those positions. I don’t know scheduling conflicts, whatever it is they have going, I don’t know all that. But if I’m my dad, and I’m 76, and I’m on the couch, I want to see those two teams play. What a great game. You see those two teams right now, where those teams are at: What a great game to watch. I think it’s too bad in that regard.

On whether he saw such potential at UW in 2002: If I had a crystal ball, when (then-UW athletic director) Barbara Hedges talked to me, it might have been a different conversation we had in those days. He’s done a fabulous job. I remember when Barbara and I were talking and looking at it, and at that point Minnesota had had one losing season in 15 years, and this place had had maybe three winning seasons. Minnesota was averaging 15,000-13,000 people, (Washington) was averaging 3,000 people at that time. … In a quick period of time he has turned this into a power basketball situation. He fits here so well too: He played here, he has so many ties to the area, being able to keep the players here. They’ve just done a fantastic job. I would say right now he has separated himself from a lot of schools in this leaue.

"I had Husky posters in my bedroom as a kid. This was always my dream to come to school here. I always thought a kid would be crazy not to, because I was born and raised in the state of Washington. But when I looked at it from Minnesota, it didn’t have the tradition and it didn’t have the support and stuff that it does right now. And again, that doesn’t happen just with Lorenzo. I think the administration and everybody here and really take this program to another level. To get Abdul Gaddy to come here, to get Isaiah Thomas to come here – 15 years ago that wasn’t happening. And they’ve really got this thing right now at an elite level program."