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Eastern Washington University Basketball

‘I’m here to build a legacy’: EWU coach Dan Monson envisions bright future at introductory news conference

By Dan Thompson The Spokesman-Review

In his first official appearance as Eastern Washington’s head men’s basketball coach, Dan Monson did plenty of reminiscing.

He graduated from the University of Idaho. He coached at Gonzaga. He was born in Spokane. He spoke on and answered questions about his many connections to the area.

He also reiterated his vision that this is a job he’s eager to have, and that Eastern Washington – winner of back-to-back Big Sky Conference titles – is a program that hasn’t yet reached its peak.

“I’m not here to retire,” the 62-year-old Monson said at his opening news conference Monday. “I’m here to build a legacy for myself and for Eastern Washington basketball.”

EWU President Shari McMahan and EWU athletics director Tim Collins offered brief introductions before Monson took the podium. They talked about greatness. They talked about grit.

Collins said this wasn’t a hire intended just to stabilize the program after David Riley left to become the coach at nearby Washington State.

This, he said, was a hire made to elevate Eastern Washington.

To do so, Monson will need to rebuild a roster that has just six players on it. Soon it will have seven, Monson said, as his son Maddox – who played sparingly for him at Long Beach State – voiced his commitment to come to Eastern almost immediately after Monson shared the news with his family on Friday.

Those six – Mason Williams, Sebastian Hartmann, Vice Zanki, Nic McClain, Jackson Seale and Emmett Marquardt – were all in attendance on Monday. Monson said he has met with them as a group and that he will continue to work to gain their trust.

“I want them to get to know me before they judge me,” Monson said. “I think my track record shows that I’ll help them basketball-wise, but I want them to know I’m going to help them as people.”

Basketball-wise, Monson brings to Cheney 27 years of head coaching experience, with stops at Gonzaga, Minnesota and Long Beach State. Those teams went a combined 445-396 and won six regular-season conference championships.

This past season, Monson led Long Beach State to a Big West Conference Tournament title and an appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Monson was fired at Long Beach – effective once the team played its last game – before that tournament run.

“I didn’t have to coach again, but I knew I wanted to,” Monson said. “When the season ended, I knew afterward that I needed to be with a team still. It keeps me young.”

“There are not a lot of jobs still open out there,” he said. “They took a chance on me, and I’m not going to let them down.”

Monson praised the work Riley did in his three years at Eastern, pointing out how well he and the previous staff evaluated and developed players. Monson noted that most of the core of last year’s Eagles team is now in the transfer portal, but he said players are ready to step up.

“I don’t care whether you’re at Duke or Eastern Washington, you’re going to have to rebuild every year,” Monson said. “You’ve got to adapt or die.”

If the foundation for winning is already here, Monson said, he is turning his focus to building walls and a roof over it.

In the short term, that looks like adding players and assistant coaches. In the long run, Monson wants to add another level.

“To leave a legacy out here is really important to me,” he said. “Not just have a good foundation and a good team, but to have a good program for years and years to come. That’s something that I’m really making a serious commitment to do.”