Men's Basketball, Men's Sports, Sports

March sadness: The reality of the NCAA Tournament

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah– Madness is the perfect superlative to describe the month of March for Long Beach State men’s basketball, but the NCAA Tournament showed how quickly March Madness can turn to March sadness.

There is a 15-minute grace period from the end of the game until the losing team has to go and speak to the media. 15 minutes to cope with the fact that you are going back home with no trophy and no basketball until November, and for some, never again.

Junior forward Aboubacar Traore, junior guard Jadon Jones and sophomore guard AJ George slowly walked up to the press conference stage followed by their head coach Dan Monson and the room went quiet when they entered.

When they emerged from behind the curtain shielding the view of the stairs, you could immediately see the sadness on their faces and through their body language.

After a wild past couple of weeks where Monson was fired and his last game with the team was unexpectedly prolonged until the NCAA Tournament, all you could do was empathize with them.

The moment seemed bittersweet for Monson as he reflected on all this team had accomplished after almost everyone wrote them.

“It was emotional in the locker room, but I made them look me in the eyes,” Monson said. “There’s no heads down because I can’t be more proud, this group needs their heads up high and I wanna thank them for the ride.”

After Monson’s powerful opening statement, it was the players’ turn to talk. A group of players had just gone through battle against one of the top teams in the country, the Arizona Wildcats, but were defeated 85-65.

LBSU head coach Dan Monson with his arm around junior guard Jadon Jones in an emotional press conference after The Beach's 86-65 loss to the Arizona Wildcats in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
LBSU head coach Dan Monson with his arm around junior guard Jadon Jones in an emotional press conference after The Beach's 86-65 loss to the Arizona Wildcats in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Photo credit: John Fajardo/ LBSU athletics

Jones is the player that Monson has credited with bringing this team together after they heard the news about their coach, and it was obvious on the stand that the players looked to him for leadership and guidance.

He was the first player to answer a question and he made sure to thank everyone from Monson to the janitor.

“Obviously, we’re a little hurt right now,” Jones said. “We didn’t go as far as we wanted to, but we know in a few days looking past it or looking back on it we’re gonna be really proud of this group.”

Traore could be seen looking off into the distance and he was visibly upset at the loss. He even declined to answer a question, something you can not blame him for after what he has been through.

What was not visible to the camera was Monson’s family huddled up with their arms around each other in the back of the conference room.

They were emotional and filming what could be the last time they would get to see their husband and father in a press conference.

“I’m the luckiest guy in this tournament and in the world to get to do what I got to do today with these guys,” Monson said.

A season full of peaks and valleys for LBSU has ended, and for whatever reason it will be remembered, the bottom line is that it will be remembered.

“Obviously it hurts this being our last game with him, [Monson] but it’s not truly a goodbye because like I said, we’re a family and that’s never gonna go away because love is unconditional,” Jones said.

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