Former Gophers men's basketball coach Dan Monson is in his fourth year as head coach at Long Beach State. He had a rough first year (6-25 record), but his squad recently clinched the Big West regular-season conference championship. Monson recently chatted with the Star Tribune's Michael Rand about all sorts of basketball-related topics.

Q I have to imagine life is pretty good right now. What's been working well for you, both as a coach and as a team?

A One of the things that I gave up as a coach is that we would not recruit junior college players because that's how they got in trouble here. I wanted to commit to building a program from the ground up. It ended up being a blessing in a lot of ways. We brought in four freshmen that year. And now we start four juniors. It's been a progression.

Q Do you still keep an eye on how things are going at Minnesota and with the Gophers?

A When you leave a place like that, I was really anxious for a fresh start. I left a lot behind. ... But I do keep close tabs on that program and team. I'm proud of what Tubby Smith has done and built off what we hopefully started. I watch a lot of their games. ... My recruits are still there, with Al Nolen and Blake [Hoffarber]. Tubby Smith has made it easy for me to feel good because he's been such a class act. Some coaches blame everything on the former coach. He's been just the opposite. The first year or two, he called me often and was so positive.

Q In retrospect, is there anything inherent in the Minnesota job that made it tough to win here that you wouldn't have predicted coming in?

A The number one thing I underestimated was the probation. And I don't want this to come off like an excuse. I feel like I'm a better coach for the experience, and I don't regret it. I'm a better dad and a better person for going through it. ... The first year or two recruiting is so vital to get things going. That first class is what we're living on [at Long Beach State]. The first year in Minnesota we took some kids where we were just going off film because we couldn't get out and evaluate. When the [NCAA] comes in and takes things away, it doesn't seem that bad. ... I took the job and I was young. I thought I would get through it. But you don't have a couple years. It doesn't matter how long your contact is or how patient the administration says it's going to be. You'd better get some momentum in those first couple years with recruiting.

Q Coaching is obviously in your blood, going back to your dad's career. Did you ever worry about not getting another shot after Minnesota?

A I felt like I wanted to coach again. You want to prove it to yourself. You go through Minnesota, and you learn you have to listen to yourself. ... At the end of Minnesota, let's face it: I didn't enjoy the journey anymore. And it was sad. Basketball had been such a part of my life, growing up a coach's son. And I wanted to get back enjoying it. Now I'm up at 5 a.m. every morning, and I can't wait to come in here. It's a great situation for my family. I can't find a better Division I job for that. Coaching kind of becomes the best two of three. This next one you better make sure. I wasn't a California guy, and I didn't have a lot of connections. Long Beach had a reputation of being very much an LA school with juco players, and I didn't feel like that fit what I wanted to do. But they wanted to go opposite of what they had done, which is why they called me.

Q Knowing what you know about your career to this point, would you have the itch to coach again at a major conference program if the opportunity presented itself?

A The one thing I've learned that makes me happy is not the league you're in or the money you make or how many times you're on TV. It's winning. If I'm winning, I'm happy. I'm not going to say I'm not going to ever take another job, but not to rebuild. ... This is fun. I'm back feeling that way.