Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd knows he’s yet to gain former Wildcats’ trust

Apr 22, 2021, 7:55 AM
(Arizona Athletics Facebook photo)...
(Arizona Athletics Facebook photo)
(Arizona Athletics Facebook photo)

Gilbert Arenas is certainly not the most measured voice among Arizona Wildcats men’s basketball alumni.

Richard Jefferson may not be far from Arenas on the spectrum of passionate and opinionated former UA players.

Both of them expressed hesitancy about the university’s hiring process of Tommy Lloyd to replace Sean Miller as head coach. Their open conversations that aired on social media before the hire of Lloyd last week were indeed the most public among Arizona’s former players.

As Lloyd, the former Gonzaga assistant, continues learning his new program, he’s begun the process of winning over Wildcats who have helped build one of the West Coast’s more powerful college hoops brands.

“What’s great is a number of them reached out to me before I even had a chance to come up for air, thanking me and congratulating me and saying they’d be here, you know, to support in whichever way is needed,” Lloyd told Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta on Wednesday.

“Listen, I understand. I know I’m an assistant coach coming from Gonzaga. I’m not naive. I know I’m put in a position where I have to earn everyone’s trust and support.”

Prior to Arizona naming Lloyd the head coach last Thursday, Arenas vouched for former Arizona point guard Damon Stoudamire, who is currently the Pacific head coach, to take on the job.

“Anybody that plays, anyone that played (for Arizona) should be considered first,” Arenas said before placing blame on Lloyd for Gonzaga’s national championship game loss to the Baylor Bears.

“An assistant doesn’t have credentials,” Arenas said. “I don’t even want to say his name because he doesn’t deserve — you’re an assistant coach. You assist. Do your job.”

Jefferson throughout the hiring process threw criticism toward university president Dr. Robert Robbins and athletic director Dave Heeke. He later clarified he is 100% in support of Lloyd to lead the basketball program.

Nonetheless, their opinions carry weight for a city and a fanbase where Arizona basketball is near-religion.

A week into his new job, Lloyd can point to a list of items that he’s off to a good start in appeasing fans and former players.

He has gained a commitment from four-star in-state product Dylan Anderson, added a 2021 transfer in former Gonzaga big man Oumar Ballo and gotten freshman point guard Kerr Kriisa to pull out of the transfer portal.

Maybe as importantly, Lloyd earned commitments from two assistant coaches with strong Arizona ties, Jack Murphy and Jason Terry. They are both returning as members of his staff.

Lloyd is currently instructing offseason workouts while learning the school, recruiting and making more media rounds.

He knows that daily grind and those step-by-step accomplishments can make public criticisms about his hiring, especially those coming from Arizona alums, dwindle.

“To be honest with you, I would have thought it was weird if they were supporting me to be head coach here instead of … their (former) teammates,” Lloyd said. “These things happen, I think they’re easily worked through.

“I’m going to do everything I can to honor those former players, because I come from a place where I know the pride the former players have in the program. That’s a real driving force and a motivating factor for me.”

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