Meehan: Tommy Lloyd ‘about as top-notch as you can get’ for Arizona

Apr 14, 2021, 3:56 PM | Updated: 9:44 pm

Gonzaga assistant coach Tommy Lloyd looks on during the college basketball game between the Gonzaga...

Gonzaga assistant coach Tommy Lloyd looks on during the college basketball game between the Gonzaga Bulldogs and the Pepperdine Waves on January 30, 2021 at the Firestone Fieldhouse in Malibu, CA. The game was played without fans due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

(Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Since Sean Miller was fired on April 7 as the Arizona Wildcats’ men’s head basketball coach, the list of names for his replacement had a number of intriguing options.

One of which was Gonzaga associate head coach Tommy Lloyd, who was one win away from a national championship and undefeated season with the Bulldogs this year.

A week to the day of Miller’s dismissal and the Wildcats have found their new head coach, with the university announcing the hiring of Lloyd on Wednesday afternoon.

Joining Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo a day after Miller’s firing, The Spokesman-Review Gonzaga beat writer Jim Meehan explained why Lloyd was such a hot commodity in college basketball.

“Early on [Gonzaga head coach] Mark Few approached him and told him he might need a niche of some kind to kinda carve out a spot and maybe elevate his own resume. That niche turned out to be recruiting internationally,” Meehan said. “Tommy has really worked hard at it. He played overseas for a few years after he got done playing in the states. … So really the first major player he signed was Ronnie Turiaf. Great player at Gonzaga, had a long career in the NBA. Then from there it just kinda evolved.

“A lot of time on the phone, a lot of time at the FIBA tournaments, the junior national stuff in different countries and he really carved out a spot over there. He started bringing high-level talent to Gonzaga when they probably couldn’t get the four-stars, certainly not the five-stars, going head-to-head with the Pac-12 at those times. … That helped elevate the program in the last 10 years and beyond to where they are now where they can get domestic kids, top-ranked kids.”

Lloyd’s international resume certainly appeals to Arizona, which has players from overseas on its roster that will have to be re-recruited following Miller’s departure.

There’s much more to Lloyd than recruiting, however.

“It’s not really fair to label him just as a recruiter,” Meehan said. “Game planning, player development, he’s about as top-notch as you can get and I think pretty much widely regarded as one of the top assistants in the country.”

With Lloyd on staff as the Bulldogs associate head coach, Gonzaga made the Sweet 16 in every single season since 2014-15, highlighted by two national championship games since 2017.

Meehan felt Lloyd would be a solid fit in Tucson, but wasn’t quite sure the associate head coach would entertain the idea, having already been pegged as the heir apparent to Few whenever he stepped down.

“I think [he hasn’t been hired as a head coach yet] mostly because he hasn’t wanted to be at the jobs that were open to him. There’s been quite a few,” Meehan said. “He’s a popular candidate for a lot of the jobs that have opened up for years. But he has it in his contract that he’s the coach-in-waiting behind Mark Few. The catch there is, how long are you waiting?”

It appears Arizona was just what Lloyd was looking for.

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