LBSU's Dan Munson, fired but coaching, reflects on 'surreal' week.

SALT LAKE CITY — As Dan Munson sat in his pre-NCAA Tournament news conference Wednesday deep inside the Delta Center in Salt Lake City, he couldn't help but highlight his situation: getting fired on March 11 and then leading Long Beach State to the NCAA Tournament five days later. .

“I don't have to answer for anything I don't want to because I'm working for free today,” Munson joked. “Did you watch 'Seinfeld' when George was trying to get fired and couldn't afford to lose his job, and he still went to work every day? That's me. I'm an episode of 'Seinfeld' now happening in real life.”

With the jokes out of the way, Munson, 62, unveiled the emotions of the past nine days.

He said it was “surreal” and felt like he was in the “twilight zone” going through the ups and downs. However, for Munson, the experience of telling his players he was fired, regrouping before the Big West Championship, going to Las Vegas and winning it, and then being in Salt Lake City, was “worth every job I've ever had, to have the experiences that “I went through it this week with my players, with my family, spiritually, everything.”

Munson, who was fired when Minnesota let him go in 2006, didn't want to go so far as to thank Long Beach State for firing him, but he tried to make the best of a strange situation.

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“I think life is life,” Munson said. “Some of it is good and some of it is bad. And how you deal with it defines who you are. And I hope people look at me and say: 'He was doing a great job.' What do we regret?” “He spent 17 years driving that car. “It's been a great trip.”

“I knew the car was a rental. I mean they wanted the keys back. It wasn't insured this week but I can still drive it. I'll try to keep it on the road, road to the Final Four.” “I'll try to keep it there.”

“It was a life-changing week in a good way,” he added.

But it wasn't easy.

Long Beach State forward Lassina Traoré described it as a “tough week” and said the players were in “real shock” after Munson told them he had been sent off.

“In the locker room, everyone was very sad because we did not expect this,” Traoré said.

When he told the team he was fired, Munson tried to unite his players for the upcoming Big West championship, using his firing and the decision to let him continue coaching as a rallying point.

“I told them, 'Look, we still have this week. We have to respect their decision, but they also couldn't give us this week. I'm grateful to have this week because a lot of coaches, when they do that,' 'We're done, they're done,'” Munson explained. So let's take advantage of this week.”

Long Beach State's March 11 schedule was for the beach to watch film and take photos. However, Munson gave them the option to take a day to process what happened or watch a small movie.

“I said, 'We're in this together now. This is us against everyone else,'” Munson said.

Traoré said the players then asked Munson for a few minutes to themselves, and during the 30-minute players-only meeting, they decided they did not want to let Munson down.

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“We used that as motivation to start playing better like we never did before,” Traoré said. “We just wanted to send it off in a better way.”

A half-hour later, Munson received a text message saying the players wanted to watch the film.

For some, it was emotional, Munson said. Gasping could be heard in the dark as the movie played. Hours after learning his coaching fate, Munson was back in training, tough love and all. Bonding together won't be enough, he told his players. While studying the film, he said they had to improve their defense, but he did not give up his sense of humor.

During one segment, Munson pointed out that the player wasn't getting close enough to the shooter.

“The guy is wide open,” Munson said. “We don't get competition.

“This is the kind of play that gets a coach fired.”

The room erupted in laughter.

“It started there,” Munson said. “It was like, 'Okay, we'll be OK.'

But Monson was not clear-sighted in his predictions. The next day – March 12 – Long Beach State's practices were “horrible.” Monson did not tread lightly.

“I think life is life. Some of it is good and some of it is bad. And how you navigate it defines who you are. I hope people look at me and say: ‘He had a great job.’” Why do we feel sorry for him? He spent 17 years driving that car. It was a great trip.” “I knew the car was a rental. I mean they wanted the keys back. It was not insured this week but I can still drive it. “I’m going to try to keep it on the road, the road to the Final Four.”

Long Beach State coach Dan Munson

“I told them after that, don't cry in the locker room and say this is bothering you, then go out and not train well. There has to be something different for us to be different,” Munson said.

When the Beach got off the bus at a Las Vegas-area high school to practice March 13 before the Big West tournament, Munson had a message for his players: “Be different today.”

This is busy.

Long Beach State had one of its best practices of the year, which reeled off three straight wins to clinch the Big West tournament title and preserve Munson's lame-duck season.

Waiting for him in Salt Lake City may be the best farewell Munson could ask for.

On Thursday, Long Beach State will face Arizona, coached by Tommy Lloyd, who Munson has offered a coaching job on Gonzaga's staff. By the time Lloyd was ready to take the job, Munson was coaching at the University of Minnesota and Mark Few, who had been Munson's top assistant at Gonzaga, had been promoted to head coach. Few honored Munson's offer to Lloyd, who wound up as an assistant at Gonzaga for 21 years.

And now they are all together in Salt Lake City.

The three and their families went to dinner Tuesday night, where they reminisced and told stories.

“Those are the things you cherish,” Munson said. “Something I thought about this week.”

Monson showed up a few minutes late and Lloyd tried to give him a hard time.

“I said, ‘Tommy, we ran the Princeton offense for three days,’” Munson joked. “”It's complicated. It took some extra time today.”

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