To say that I've had even a small part of any of this. It's -- a lot. It's a lot. Eighteen years ago Monson launched the Bulldogs, taking a then unknown to the Elite Eight.
He has spent every year since trying to recapture what he did at Gonzaga. It didn't happen in eight years at Minnesota. It hasn't happened in 10 years at Long Beach State. Yet to Gonzaga people inside and outside the program, Monson is neither the traitor coach nor the coach left behind. He's the architect. Fans at the Westin, the Gonzaga team hotel, stopped to shake his hand and say hello, easily recognizing the otherwise anonymous man Listen - Dan Monson - Dan Monson (Vinyl a black workout shirt.
And when Roth sidled by, the athletic director stopped and firmly planted his hands on Monson's shoulders. He had, essentially, done the impossible. Dan Fitzgerald ran the place for nearly two decades as head coach and, later, athletic director. But he was more a resolute pragmatist than big dreamer.
At the end of each season, he'd take his coaches out to dinner and reiterate the same refrain -- why the Bulldogs could never win their league. Every school besides Saint Mary's has better facilities. Every school has better players in their area to recruit,'' Monson remembers LP) late Fitzgerald saying.
But Monson, along with LP) and Grier, refused to follow Fitzgerald's lead. They pursued recruits that Fitzgerald believed were out of reach, insisted that Gonzaga could compete for what was then known as the Pac When Fitzgerald retired and Monson took over and, along with Few and the rest of the staff, turned things around almost immediately.
Monson turned down Minnesota twice. Said no the first time because he didn't want to be the guy in between, the coach who did the clean up of an academic scandal that cost Clem Haskins his job and the Gophers a postseason only to have someone else enjoy all the success.
Ironically, that's exactly what happened. He was forced to resign at the start of his eighth season, making way for Tubby Smith to enjoy the program's return. He said no a second time because he couldn't bear to leave his family. Monson grew up in eastern Washington. His parents had retired back to Spokane. His soon-to-be wife's family also called the town home. But then Minnesota countered with a "friends and family package," essentially including money that would allow Monson to fly people to Minneapolis and put them in a hotel as often as he needed, Listen - Dan Monson - Dan Monson (Vinyl.
He also was two weeks away from getting married. While the days of living poor as a single guy were fun, he didn't think it would be quite so enjoyable as a husband. I was single for 37 years, and when you're facing those pregame marriage jitters, you start thinking a little differently. Monson knew he'd always have a special place in his heart for Gonzaga. It was the first place to trust him as a head coach, the first time he realized the enjoyment that only comes from achievement.
What Monson didn't expect -- didn't really appreciate until he arrived at this Final Four -- is that the place would still have a special affinity for him. On Saturday morning, Roth spied Monson tucked in a corner at the Westin restaurant. Soon enough three of Monson's four children came by.
It's one thing to sit here and tell a reporter what he means to us, but to be able to explain that to his kids, it meant so much to me. He didn't know the guy, but already Monson pitied him. It was a Sunday afternoon in and Don Monson, Dan's dad, had called all the coaches who would be working his basketball camp in for a quick meeting.
Don't fire him. I can't find a coach in a few hours. Monson hit it off with Few. Later, when Fitzgerald informed LP) he was in the market for a restricted-earnings coach, Monson suggested Few. Few said no. Monson and Few spent seven years together LP) roommates. Few's new bride, Marcy, even spent her first three months of wedded bliss living in Monson's house.
Monson, who was an assistant from and the Zags' head coach the subsequent two years, said the program's growth from the point where it had never won a West Coast Conference title to a No. He knows Few, the team's current head coach, probably already is focused on preparing for its opening game against Southern, so the current staff probably isn't enjoying this moment as much as he is. Monson called the seeding a "program reward. Gonzaga's No. It shows mid-majors and all schools outside the major power conferences that, if you schedule tough and play well, you can be rewarded.
Monson's current team will play in the NIT this week, but he plans on returning home to Spokane around Easter. If Gonzaga goes to the Final Four, he's already told Few he's going with the team.
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