What’s not to like about Tommy Lloyd?
You can sense the passion he has for what he does and how he’ll be here at Arizona. You knew that sincerity he showed was legit when he almost teared up – voice broke – a couple of times.
You knew he made the right move when he reached out to the former UA players to get to know what they were and are thinking as he took the first steps to be the next big thing as it pertains to Arizona basketball.
He spoke of Arizona’s history of success over the last four decades, hoping to recreate it for a fan base that all but dies for it. He’s paid attention to what’s gone on here in the Southwest given his former team Gonzaga wanted to be Arizona back in the day and has, well quite honestly, passed it.
“University of Arizona was the standard bearer for Gonzaga,” he said. “Arizona and Duke were the programs that that Coach (Mark) Few chose to emulate.”
There he goes again, saying all the right things.
But right moves are critical as he takes the next steps to make things right, like get the current players on the roster to stay and the older players to buy in.
It’s a delicate dance to get to as many Big Dances as possible. Well, like the good ol’ days of Arizona basketball.
“I give you guys my word, I’m going to honor this place with every ounce of my being,” said Lloyd at his introductory press conference today at McKale Center. “I want to connect (to) the University of Arizona. I want it to be about one amazing basketball program, (where) everybody’s proud. I know the value of former players sitting at home watching their team play on TV, and the pride they feel when they watch that.
“I want to give those guys everything I got. I don’t have to be the guy they wanted for this job, I’m OK with that, they should be pushing their teammates. If they were doing anything other than that, I’d probably question them. But moving forward, I can’t wait to wrap my arms around them, ask them to help me on this journey, and do anything I can to move this program forward.”
And so here we are where the Sean Miller era is over, the Damon Stoudamire era didn’t happen and it’s Lloyd’s task to breathe new life into a once proud program.
I think he can do it. Of course, he will. Yes, there will be a lot of work ahead and he’ll have to get a little luck from the NCAA (maybe it will go light on the program in his initial years), but he’s prepared for what’s ahead. A man who is 46 years old and has seen the highs and lows of a successful program like Gonzaga has seen it all – even if he hasn’t been a head coach. People will have to get over that already.
As for the penalties, well, he’s ready.
“Obviously it didn’t weigh much because I’m here,” he said of the possible sanctions/penalties UA might incur at some point sooner or later. “You know, you can’t always script everything in life. For me to have the opportunity to be the head coach at the University of Arizona, it probably wasn’t going to be a perfect situation.”
Hardly, but note this, he said, “you guys are never going to hear me complain about NCAA sanctions or anything like that. I know what I’m walking into, and I know my job is to lead the program forward. So that’s going to be 100 percent my focus.”
As he said a couple of times, he’s going to give it “everything I’ve got.”
Does he have any other choice? Of course, not but so you know he will. The self-proclaimed “people person” and “uniter” is a guy who will figure things out in the coming days, weeks, months and years as he attempts to make Arizona relevant again. In fact, he left Gonzaga, a place where he’d been for 20-plus years, for “the only place I would ever leave Gonzaga to come” to.”
That sounded sincere. Sappy but sincere. And now he’s here.
And with the intention of keeping someone – two? – from the current coaching staff or someone with UA ties.
“It’s really important to have Arizona ties within my staff, so I want to take my time, meet some people and make the right decisions moving forward,” he said. “But I think you’re definitely gonna see some Arizona flavor on it for sure.”
It’s a flavor the locals and the past welcome. Who that will be is anyone’s guess but at least he’s embraced the idea.
As for the roster, well, it would seem he was left a cupboard full of his kind of players: International types and athletic types.
Already, Kerr Kriisa has decided to get on the transfer portal so Lloyd will have to get those recruiting chops working right away. And others have decided to leave. But by the time he was sitting in front some fans, UA administrators and the media on Thursday, he had already spoken to his new team – or many of the players – via Facetime. And had met with them again earlier in the morning.
“The next step is meeting with them individually,” he said. “I want to meet with these guys and give every one of them a chance, because that’s the right thing to do. I want to serve them. Ultimately as a coach, I’ve always thought it’s about serving the players. That’s how you create good karma, doing the right thing for those guys … I’m gonna be honest to you, I don’t have an exact plan how the roster is gonna look. Hopefully, a lot of these guys come back because, I mean, Sean left a really good foundation to build upon. I hope that a lot of those guys decide to stay but I don’t want to make any predictions until I’ve sat down with guys one on one.”