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New coach Tommy Lloyd understands Arizona tradition in leaving Gonzaga

(Arizona Athletics Facebook photo)

The Arizona Wildcats introduced Tommy Lloyd as their new men’s basketball head coach on Thursday afternoon.

“This is the only place I would ever leave Gonzaga to come be the head coach at: the University of Arizona,” Lloyd told reporters during the introductory press conference.

It was a surreal moment for the new Wildcats head coach being introduced to the Arizona family.

“I understand the tradition and the passion that surrounds the Arizona basketball program and I smile when I say that,” Lloyd said. “I know I’m following four decades of incredible success and great coaching.”

During Lloyd’s coaching career in Spokane that spanned 20 seasons, Gonzaga got familiar with Arizona having faced the Wildcats nine times. Arizona leads the series 5-4.

From the beginning of their tenure together at Gonzaga, Mark Few and Lloyd wanted to replicate Arizona’s success early on.

“Coach Few always did a great job as he built that program out of nothing and Dan Monson and guys like that before him emulating a few programs,” Lloyd said. “Arizona and Duke were the programs that Coach Few chose to emulate.”

Lloyd mentioned that he got a chance to speak with current Wildcats players before Thursday’s introductory press conference.

“It’s really important that I meet with those guys, because we got to hit fast forward and develop some relationships,” Lloyd said. “Because college basketball is crazy these days with player movements.”

The new Wildcats head coach also expressed that he didn’t want this moment to be about himself, instead focusing on the team.

“I want it to be about them and what I can do as a leader of this program do everything in my power in using the university’s resources to honor those guys,” Lloyd said.

As for his decision to leave Gonzaga, Lloyd said that Few encouraged him to take the next step in his coaching career.

“(Few) told me, ‘If you can get that job, you got to take it,'” said Lloyd, who was the coach-in-waiting for the Bulldogs. “Trust me, he’s never told me that before. So he was amazingly supportive.”

Mike Roth, director of athletics at Gonzaga, also encouraged Lloyd to take the job in Tucson.

“(Roth) had told me not only is it the right thing for you to do to go to the University of Arizona, we’re going to celebrate it at Gonzaga,” Lloyd said.

Lloyd’s track record as an international recruiter has been praised by others around the basketball world and he will look to bring similar success to Tucson.

“I look forward to balancing out the roster here and then having a good mix of some international guys that can play and a lot of great American kids,” he said.