ARIZONA BASKETBALL

Arizona’s Tommy Lloyd paid for LBSU coach Dan Monson’s pizza before NCAA Tournament

Mar 20, 2024, 12:52 PM

Tommy Lloyd paid for Dan Monson’s pizza two days before the head coaches’ respective Arizona and Long Beach State teams face each other in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

And it’s not because LBSU’s Monson won’t have a paycheck if the Wildcats end his coaching tenure Thursday.

Monson, who was fired last week but allowed to coach through the end of the year, has a deep coaching connection to Lloyd linked by Gonzaga and the Pacific Northwest.

“Tommy owes me. That’s the bottom line, OK?” Monson said Wednesday after the coaches shared a meal with Gonzaga head coach Mark Few in Salt Lake City. “I gave him his first opportunity. Hired him. His JC coach knew my mom.”

The quick story goes like this: Lloyd played for Walla Walla Community College in 1993-95 and is a Kelso, Washington native.

He transferred to play at CSU-Pueblo and then Whitman before he got a graduate assistant job with Gonzaga under Monson in 2000, just before the head coach left to take the head job at Minnesota. It left Few to lead the Bulldogs in Spokane, Washington, a job he holds 25 years later.

Lloyd remained there as Few’s right-hand man until he took the Arizona job in 2021.

Monson, who led Gonzaga from 1997-99, indeed hired Lloyd at the tail end of his tenure there. But he left before Lloyd could call him boss.

“Two weeks after I get back to Minnesota, (Few and I are) both reeling with these new jobs, talking,” Monson said Wednesday. “About halfway through the conversation, Mark said, ‘This grad guy you got here, what is his name again and what did you promise him (in his new job)?’ I just laugh at that now because Tommy is Tommy, where he is, one of the best coaches in America — making enough money to buy my pizza last night.”

Lloyd and Monson, the latter of whom is from Spokane, have been connected ever since. Lloyd said their wives are good friends and children are as close as cousins.

Monson has led Long Beach State after leaving Minnesota in 2006, piling up 445 wins with a 4-3 NCAA Tournament record at the Beach.

On Wednesday, Monson compared his firing before the end of the year to a Seinfeld story arc involving George, in which the then-New York Yankees executive tried to get fired but couldn’t. The extended — and surprising — run to the Big West championship has kept Monson working.

“He’s a great guy. We have a ton of fun together,” Lloyd said of their relationship. “He’s somebody that you’re always going to smile and laugh with. I know he’s going through a tough time, but he’s handling it with incredible grace.

“I think he’s thankful for all the opportunities he’s had, the relationships he’s made in this business. I think we all know it can be a tough business, there’s another side to it. Unfortunately, he’s going through that right now.”

That doesn’t mean Lloyd and Monson are taking it easy on one another. Even if they shared a meal before their teams square off.

“We get there late last night. The Few family and the Lloyds and us. Those are the things you just cherish,” Monson said. “It’s above and beyond the game, is relationships. Something I’ve reflected on this week. To watch Marcy Few taping the boys and my nephew, watching the last 30 seconds our game. Mark not being able to sit down, yelling at the TV. That’s precious.

“When we go to the pizza place and we’re a little bit late, Tommy tries to give me some grief. I said, ‘Tommy, we’ve been putting in that Princeton offense for three days. It’s complicated. It took a little extra time today.'”

So what did Lloyd say?

“I told him it would be great to see some semblance of offense. No, I mean, listen, Dan’s a veteran. I think he knows this opportunity he has. I have no doubt that his team’s going to come out ready to play with a spirited effort tomorrow.”

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