Long Beach State eyes NCAA Tournament with lame-duck coach

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Long Beach State is playing for an NCAA Tournament bid Saturday night despite having a lame-duck coach.

The school and longtime coach Dan Monson agreed to a “mutual separation” earlier this week, but now Monson has guided the club into the Big West tournament title game against second-seeded UC Davis at Henderson, Nev.

Fourth-seeded Long Beach State (20-14) reached the title game with an 83-79 upset of top-seeded UC Irvine on Friday night.

“Being in it is one thing, winning it is another and we’re happy,” Monson told the Orange County Register after the win. “We feel like we deserve it, but we’re not done.

“We didn’t come here to get to the championship game. We came here to go to the NCAA Tournament.”

The Beach closed the regular season with five consecutive losses, prompting the announcement that Monson would finish his 17th and final season at the school. Long Beach State defeated UC Riverside to start its tourney run.

Monson holds the school record with 274 victories and guided Long Beach State to the 2012 NCAA Tournament.

Earlier this week, Monson said: “I am proud of what we have accomplished on and off the court, but it is time for a new voice for the program. I wish nothing but the best for a special university and a tremendous group of student athletes.”

One more victory would make an unusual but very happy ending.

Overall, Monson is 444-395 in a 27-year coaching career that includes stints at Gonzaga and Minnesota.