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Allure of leading Arizona pulls Lloyd away from Gonzaga

Tommy Lloyd had chances to coach other programs. He turned them all down. The longtime Gonzaga assistant had no interest in leaving Spokane, Washington, and was in line to succeed Mark Few when he eventually retired, so there was no reason to consider elsewhere. But with Few still going strong and the opportunity to coach one of college basketball’s premier programs suddenly in front of Lloyd, leaving for Arizona was too good to pass up.

“This was the only place I would have left Gonzaga to come to be the head coach at the University of Arizona,” Lloyd said Thursday as he was introduced to Arizona. “I can’t wait to start this adventure.” Arizona needed to make a big splash hire following Sean Miller’s firing last week after 12 seasons. Alums and former players wanted the school to keep it in the family. President Robert C. Robbins and athletic director Dave Heeke did their due diligence, looking at former Wildcats like Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner, Pacific coach Damon Stoudamire, and Los Angeles Lakers assistant Miles Simon.

Lloyd‘s resume stood out.

An assistant to Few for 20 seasons, he helped turn a small Jesuit school in eastern Washington into a national powerhouse. The Bulldogs went to the NCAA Tournament every year during Lloyd‘s tenure under Few, reaching the Elite Eight four times and the national championship game twice in the past four years. Gonzaga lost to Baylor in this year’s title game. Lloyd has a sharp basketball mind, and he helped Few create one of the sport’s most efficient teams. He’s proven to be an adept recruiter, particularly of international players. He also knows what it takes to run an elite-level program and the expectations that come with it.


“(He’s) a person of integrity, emotion, passion, and great respect for the program,” Heeke said. “Those things are important, and at the same time, someone who has been at the elite level and has been a part of the architecture of an elite-level program, one of the greatest out there, that was critically important to us.”

Lloyd‘s first head coaching job comes with some uncertainty.

Miller was fired after nearly four years under the NCAA microscope.

Arizona was ensnared in a 2017 federal probe into shady recruiting practices. Last year, the NCAA hit the school with nine misconduct allegations in a notice of claims, including five Level 1 violations – four against the basketball program. The case is currently going through the Independent Accountability Resolution Process. The Wildcats have four players who entered the transfer portal since last season, including guards Jemarl Baker Jr. and Kerr Kriisa. They may lose some incoming recruits who are rethinking their commitments to Arizona.

“It didn’t weigh much because I’m here,” Lloyd said of the sanctions. “You can’t always script everything in life. For me to have the opportunity to be the head coach at the University of Arizona probably wasn’t going to be the perfect situation. One thing, you won’t ever hear me complain about NCAA sanctions. I know what I’m walking into, and I know my job is to lead the program forward.”

At first, Lloyd will focus on players on the roster and trying to convince those who have considered leaving to stay in Tucson. He shouldn’t have any problems recruiting top-level talent to Arizona, based on his record and the types of recruits that have rotated into the program over the past decade.

Once his roster is set, the Wildcats’ style will likely resemble what Few and Lloyd created at Gonzaga.

The Zags have been one of college basketball’s most efficient offensive teams annually, and they started making more profound March runs when the defense caught up to the offense.

“The ultimate formula to competing for national championships and Final Fours has an offense and defense both rated in the top 20, and we’ve been able to consistently do that at Gonzaga the past eight or ten years,” Lloyd said. “When you’re good on offense, that’s what people want to talk about, but we understood that to take the next step, we had to be great on defense, too. We will be great on both sides of the ball, which will be the standard.” Arizona had already set a high standard on the court. The chance to take it to the next level was enough to pull Lloyd away from Gonzaga.

More AP college basketball: http://apnews.com/hub/College-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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Molly Aronson

I'm an award-winning blogger who enjoys all things creative but is especially passionate about lifestyle design. I blog over at mehlogy.com I love that I get to share my passion for healthy living, fashion, fitness, and travel with readers from all over the world.

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