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Eastern Washington University Basketball

Eastern Washington hires former Gonzaga coach Dan Monson to replace David Riley

Eastern Washington University named Dan Monson as head basketball coach on Friday.  (Getty Images)
By Dan Thompson The Spokesman-Review

Almost exactly 25 years after taking a job that took him away from Spokane, Dan Monson has accepted one that’s bringing him back.

The 62-year-old Monson will be Eastern Washington’s next men’s basketball coach, the program announced on Friday.

The former Gonzaga head coach, who had stints at Minnesota (1999 to 2006) and Long Beach State (2007 until last month) will be introduced at a news conference Monday afternoon in Cheney.

On Friday afternoon, Monson was already in town to watch Mollie Monson, his daughter, compete in her final home regatta as a member of the Gonzaga women’s rowing team. Gonzaga swept Seattle University in its home race at Silver Lake.

“I wanted to coach again. I wanted one more team at least to be a part of,” Monson told The Spokesman-Review by phone soon after his hire was announced. “To be able to do it where I have a new chance and familiarity with the region, familiarity of the people within the community, it’s really comforting. It’s going home.”

Monson replaces David Riley, who in his three years as EWU head coach won two Big Sky Conference regular -season championships but lost in the quarterfinals of the Big Sky Tournament after both titles. Last week, Riley left Eastern to become Washington State’s head coach.

“They have a great culture in their program, from everything I’ve heard it’s player-driven,” Monson said, “and that shows by how successful they’ve been the last several years. I just want to help them continue that.”

Monson will be the program’s 10th coach since the Eagles joined the Big Sky in 1987; the last three skippers – Riley, Shantay Legans and Jim Hayford – won at least one league championship and Big Sky Coach of the Year honors.

That’s an honor Monson won once at Gonzaga (in 1998 in the West Coast Conference) and four times at Long Beach State (in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2022 in the Big West Conference).

His overall record as a head coach is 445–396 (.529), including a 52-17 mark in two years at Gonzaga. He coached the 1999 Gonzaga team that, as a No. 10 seed, reached the Elite Eight for the first time in program history.

At the end of his 17th season as head coach at Long Beach State, Monson was fired on March 11 with the allowance that he would stay on to coach the team through the rest of the season. Long Beach State ended up winning the Big West Conference Tournament as the No. 4 seed to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament. It lost to No. 2 seed Arizona 85-65 in the first round of the NCAAs.

Eastern Washington finished 21-11 overall last season and 16-2 in the Big Sky. After Riley’s departure, six Eagles’ players entered the transfer portal. They also graduated two seniors.

Last week, former San Diego State assistant coach Chris Acker was hired to replace Monson at Long Beach State. In the interim, four of LBSU’s top five scorers from last year entered the transfer portal and remain there: Jadon Jones (12.1 points per game), Aboubacar Traore (12.0), Lassina Traore (11.9) and AJ George (10.6).

Maddox Monson, Dan Monson’s son, also entered the transfer portal. He played limited minutes for LBSU as a junior last season.

The Eagles return four players who saw minutes last season, including Sebastian Hartmann, Mason Williams and Vice Zanki, all of whom played as true freshmen, and junior Nic McClain, who was out with an injury most of the season. Those four combined to score 198 points.

EWU freshmen forwards Emmett Marquardt and Jackson Seale redshirted last season.