Arizona Basketball: Hiring of Tommy Lloyd is great, but controversial

Arizona Basketball names its new Head Coach, former Gonzaga University Assistant Coach Tommy Lloyd, but not without a little controversy.

The Arizona Basketball Head Coaching position is a highly coveted job, even when the school is under evaluation for pending infractions through the NCAA’s Independent Accountability Resolution Process (IARP). The Wildcats self-imposed a post-season ban in 2020-21 and then fired their Head Coach Sean Miller over a week ago.

Maybe the administration was hoping that firing Miller would help with the severity of looming punishment, or maybe not, we don’t know because Athletic Director Dave Heeke wouldn’t answer Bruce Pascoe’s question at Lloyd’s press conference on Thursday.

USC seemed to get off with a hand slap (two-year probation), and Oklahoma State as well with a one-year probation. Anyway, Lloyd will have to deal with whatever happens to Arizona and he is aware of it.

Even with all the drama, this job was the only job Lloyd would take outside of being Head Coach of Gonzaga, but that ship has now sailed for Lloyd as he got the job he has always dreamed of.

Is it just me, though? Why was Arizona the only school he would take a Head Coaching job? If Duke came calling, would he say no? I am looking forward to finding out more about why Arizona, and I don’t feel I am the only one either, as there are a handful of Alumni that are asking the tough questions.

Was Lloyd the only candidate all along? Was President Robbins and Heeke waiting for the Zags to be done with the NCAA Tournament? Were they serious in interviewing some of Arizona’s most prestigious Alumni who were qualified for the job, or was it just appeasement?

When Jedd Fisch was hired to be the Head Football Coach, some Alumni who knew Fisch, were happy for him and eventually got hired on to live out their dream of being hired by their Alma Mater like Chuck Cecil and Ricky Hunley. It has been extremely heartwarming to watch Cecil and Hunley in their new roles, as I haven’t seen those two as happy as they are in quite some time.

Wildcats fans weren’t the only folks watching the Football program embrace the Alumni, Arizona Basketball Alumni probably had a lift in their step thinking the administration could follow suit with basketball if they ever moved on from Miller.

You would think given the football programs’ success under Fisch thus far (yes, I know they are 0-0), that the administration would possibly look for a coach with ties to Arizona or that are Arizona Alumni at least. But that wasn’t the case, as the decision for hiring Lloyd left some Alumni with a bad taste in their mouths, especially the ones that interviewed.

After the school announced Lloyd as the new head coach, Pac-12 and ESPN sports announcer, and prominent alumni/donor Richard Jefferson took to Instagram to sound off on the whole process.

RJ welcomed the coach but then went on to explain the surprise to certain alumni who were interviewed by the administration, while they were hashing out the deal with Tommy concurrently.

As anyone goes through a job hiring process, that is not what you want to hear, and not what the Administration should have done. The pressure fans put on them to immediately find a coach lent to some of the confusion, however, the news from RJ left me sad and disappointed as I am sure it did with the Alumni who interviewed as well.

Names of interviewees were rumored on Twitter, although no definitive list was ever provided. Names like Current Arizona Assistant Coach Jason Terry, Houston Rockets Assistant Coach (former Championship HC of the RG Vipers), and Lute Olson’s grandson Matt Brase, University of the Pacific Head Coach Damon Stoudamire, and Lakers Assistant Coach Miles Simon.

The names rumored certainly got some of us excited for a little bit, but none of them seemed to have a chance because the deal was pretty much done before they even interviewed. It ended up being a check box instead of a real search.

We believe Richard even if some fans do not.

Former Wildcats dream of being able to lead their Alma Mater to victory, especially the Cats who were mentored and coached by Olson himself. More than anyone else, even Lloyd, coaching the Wildcats is a job that is a dream come true, a goal on their bucket list.

If an Alumni was chosen, people would get behind him no doubt, and there are fans on both sides of the fence here; some wanted new blood, some wanted an Alumni, it’s mixed. Now it is up to Lloyd to do what Coach Fisch did, but will he? Time will tell. Perhaps Lloyd will try to keep ‘The Jet’ on his staff, but not sure about anyone else of yet. It is just too bad that for right now at least, an Alumni won’t have the chance.

Another misstep was with the players, Lloyds current and future players committed to Arizona under Miller. The players found out through Twitter, their assistant coach Terry was even in the mix to potentially become the new head coach.

I just don’t feel this was all thought out. Sometimes we wish the fans would just chill out and not put so much pressure on the administration calling for their heads if they don’t hire a coach in days. Maybe if there was a little less pressure, the series of events could have been planned out better.

So for those of you who aren’t excited yet, there is hope, but for me, I’ll get excited when our esteemed alumni get excited, but that’s just me. I wish Tommy a ton of success and I look towards cheering on my Cats no matter what!