Prior to last season’s 15-17 record, Dan Monson had experienced just one losing season during his time at Long Beach State, with that being his first campaign in 2007-08. The 49ers have become well-known for the grueling non-conference schedules they play annually, with those challenges helping to prepare Monson’s teams for Big West play.
And the scheduling strategy has worked in that regard, as Long Beach State has won at least ten conference games in each of the last four seasons. Also of note during Monson’s tenure are the three Big West regular season titles and an NCAA tournament appearance in 2012. With those accomplishments under his belt, it was only a matter of time before Long Beach State moved to take care of their head coach.
Wednesday afternoon, the school announced that it has extended Monson’s contract through the 2018-19 season.
“Simply put, I’m really excited,” noted Monson. “In today’s day and age, stability in our profession is really hard to come by. It really makes me appreciate the special people I am surrounded by at the Beach – an administration and coaching staff second to none. This extension really shows that the university has confidence in what we’re doing here and in the direction of the program. I wake up every day honored to represent this university and am thrilled to have that opportunity for years to come.”
Monson’s won 119 games at Long Beach State, and he’s just four wins away from passing Jerry Tarkanian as the school’s winningest coach. Guards Mike Caffey, who’s been a first team All-Big West selection in each of the last two years, and Tyler Lamb will lead the way in 2014-15, with Long Beach State’s schedule including road games against eight teams that reached the NCAA tournament last year.
Among those teams are BYU, San Diego State, Texas, Syracuse and Louisville.
With Michael Caffey and Tyler Lamb both back, Long Beach State is expected to be one of the contenders for the Big West title. Unfortunately for head coach Dan Monson he’ll be without the services of one of his starters this season.
At the annual Wooden Award Basketball Tipoff Luncheon Wednesday, Monson announced that starting guard A.J. Spencer will miss the 2014-15 season after suffering a torn ACL in his left knee during a pickup game last week.
News of the injury was first reported by the Orange County Register last week, with Monson making an official announcement at the luncheon. Spencer will redshirt this season, returning as a fifth-year senior in 2015-16.
Spencer, a 6-foot-3 guard, averaged 9.1 points and 3.2 rebounds per game last season after transferring in from Hutchinson CC in Kansas. Spencer started 28 of the 49ers’ 32 games last season, providing Long Beach State with a solid supplementary scoring option alongside the likes of Caffey and Lamb. His best offensive outing came in a win at Hawaii in late January, as he scored a season-high 24 points on 8-for-10 shooting from the field.
With Spencer no longer available a spot in the rotation opens for Long Beach State, with Branford Jones and McKay LaSalle among the perimeter players who enter the 2014-15 season looking to increase their opportunities. Jones started eight games last season, and his presence tends to allow Caffey the chance to operate off the ball on occasion. LaSalle played sparingly in 2013-14, averaging 10.6 minutes per game, and he was regarded as one of the team’s best shooters upon his arrival from Saddleback CC.
Once again Long Beach State will take on a challenging non-conference slate. Their season begins at BYU, and it will include a game at UCLA and a brutal six-game stretch against Stephen F. Austin, San Diego State, Texas, St. John’s, Syracuse and Louisville with all six being on the road. The non-conference schedule should result in a well-prepared team when Big West play begins in January.
With an upperclassmen-heavy roster, Long Beach State head coach Dan Monson is relying on success on the recruiting trail for the 2015-2016 season. For the second time in the span of five days, he received a verbal commitment.
Thursday, small forward Mason Riggins committed to the 49ers. Monday night, Woodcreek High (California) point guard Noah Blackwell announced he would also join the program in the fall of 2015. They join power forwards Jonathan Ross and Larond Williams in the Class of 2015. All four are rated as three-star recruits by Rivals.
Nick Faust, the former Maryland guard, will also be part of that incoming class as he sits out the 2014-2015 after transferring in June.
Long Beach State returns the high-scoring back court of Michael Caffery (16.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game) and former UCLA guard Tyler Lamb (15.4 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game) for 2014-2015, though, both of them will be out of eligibility after this season. Gaining a commitment from a guard will add depth to the perimeter for the following season with Faust getting back on the court and Branford Jones as an upperclassman.
After winning its season opener against Hawaii Pacific, Long Beach State lost nine straight games in a variety of ways. There were blowouts, and there were also close defeats like their one-point loss to Loyola Marymount on November 14. Dan Monson’s team has traditionally played a brutal non-conference schedule, with the goal being to enter Big West play tested and ready to make a run at the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
But that can be a tough road to travel when doing so with a roster loaded with newcomers, and that’s been the case for the 49ers. The process of building chemistry is an ongoing one, and it certainly hasn’t come easy for Long Beach State. On Thursday night the 49ers welcomed UCLA transfer Tyler Lamb to the rotation, and the once highly-regarded Mater Dei product was expected to provide Long Beach State with some needed perimeter scoring help alongside junior point guard Mike Caffey.
And in his debut Lamb gave the 49ers a much-needed boost in the first half, scoring 18 of his 20 points to help Long Beach State build a 50-36 lead at the break. Long Beach State went cold in the second half as USC came back to take the lead, but a Mike Caffey driving layup with just over 16 seconds remaining proved to be the difference in Long Beach State’s 72-71 victory. Caffey scored a game-high 22 points to go along with four assists and big man Dan Jennings added ten points and eight assists as the 49ers snapped their nine-game skid.
In two-plus seasons at UCLA Lamb averaged 5.8 points and 2.3 rebounds per game, and his open-court style didn’t exactly mesh with what then-head coach Ben Howland wanted to do. As a result he made the decision to transfer to Long Beach State, and after sitting out for more than a year (he played just one game at UCLA last season) Lamb hit the ground running offensively. Against USC he also accounted for four rebounds, three steals and two assists, using his skill and athletic ability to impact the game in multiple areas.
Given how much Long Beach State struggled in the nine Division I games prior to Thursday, it wouldn’t be wise to state that Lamb’s arrival means that everything’s “fixed.” Against USC the 49ers went more than six minutes in the second half without scoring a point, watching their lead dwindle from 13 points down to two with 6:28 to go, and they shot 5-for-21 from three. So there’s still plenty of room for growth as Lamb and the five junior college transfers (they’ve been eligible since the start of the season) continue to mesh with Caffey and the other key returnees.
But there’s no doubt that Lamb will be an impact player for Long Beach State as they look to win another Big West regular season title, especially when considering how he played in his debut.