Tommy Lloyd takes UA basketball job, joins son in Arizona

Liam Lloyd was a good high school basketball player.  He averaged 23 points a game during his senior season at Gonzaga Prep and led his teams to two Washington state championships.

But, since his father was the assistant coach at Gonzaga University, college recruiters naturally assumed he would want to play his college career for the Bulldogs, which likely accounted for fewer offers than expected.

His father had already encouraged the talented youngster to stretch his wings and look at the possibility of playing away from home.  So, instead of staying home in Spokane to play for his father,  Liam found a new home at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, where he just completed his freshman season, playing a reserve’s role and appearing in 13 games.

And now the father and son (above photo) are reunited as Tommy Lloyd takes over the University of Arizona men’s program, replacing Sean Miller, who was fired April 7  following three years of being entangled in an NCAA investigation into corruption in recruiting.

It took just seven days for the UofA administration to name a replacement for Miller.  Lloyd’s hire was announced yesterday, and a press conference this afternoon made it official.

Lloyd was considered by most analysts as the front-runner for the job, despite the fact that he has no head-coaching experience.  Apparently, 20 years as an assistant under Mark Few at Gonzaga has given the 46-year old graduate of Whitman College in Washington plenty of opportunity to prove himself.

He and Few have taken the Zags to the NCAA Tournament every year, reaching the Sweet Sixteen four times, the Elite Eight twice, and the title game twice.  One of those title appearances came this season when the undefeated Zags lost to Baylor.

During Lloyd’s time on the Gonzaga bench, the Bulldogs won 19 West Coast Conference regular-season championships and 18 conference titles.

Lloyd played a key role in installing a European-style offense that has been one of the most efficient and most potent among D-I programs.  Over the last two decades, the Zags joined North Carolina and Duke as the only three schools in the country to average more than 80 points a game.

That should be welcome news for the Wildcat fans who want to see an exciting brand of basketball.  And because Lloyd has been a very successful international recruiter, there will likely be a larger contingent of overseas players being added to the roster.

Arizona has signed its new head coach to a five-year contract, taking a bit of a gamble. Despite the fact that Lloyd has been receiving offers from major programs over the last couple of years and is a hot commodity right now, he lacks the experience of being a head coach.

The last time Arizona brought in someone who had never been a head coach was in 1972 when it hired Fred Snowden, who took his teams to the NCAA Tournament twice during his 10 years at the helm and made it to the Elite Eight in his fourth season.  But he resigned after the 1981-82 season following three straight losing seasons.

So, will Liam Lloyd join his father in Tucson, or stay with the GCU program?  There probably hasn’t been time to discuss that issue, but it will surely come up sooner or later.

In the meantime, the father won’t have to travel the 1,500 miles back to Washington to visit the son.  Instead, a two-hour drive down the I-10 will bring the two together.

However, with everything the new coach will be doing in the next few months to set up his new program, finding time for a visit presents a whole new set of problems.