September 28, 2022

Arizona’s Tommy Lloyd wins AP Male Coach of the Year

Tommy Lloyd spent 22 years as Mark Few’s right-hand man, making Gonzaga a national powerhouse.

He only needed one season to bring Arizona back to prominence.

Lloyd was named Men’s College Basketball Coach of the Year by The Associated Press on Friday after leading the Wildcats to the Sweet 16 in his freshman season. He received 28 votes from a media panel of 61 who voted on the AP’s Top 25 to edge out Providence’s Ed Cooley, who got 21 votes. No other coach got more than three.

Lloyd joined Indiana State’s Bill Hodges in 1979 and Drake’s Keno Davis in 2008 to win AP Coach of the Year in their first season as head coach.

“I always tell people, it’s an easy answer: I love coaching and teaching,” Lloyd said. “Everything I’ve done in basketball, I’ve been part of what I’ve done before, so I had a real comfort level and belief in what I wanted to do.”

Lloyd was expected to take over for Few whenever he retired. He had no reason to look elsewhere. When the job in Arizona opened up, Lloyd couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

The Wildcats have spent the previous three seasons embroiled in FBI and NCAA investigations that, in part, led to the firing of Sean Miller last April. The NCAA investigation is still ongoing, but it has done little to prevent Arizona’s rapid rise under Lloyd.

Expectations were lukewarm for Lloyd’s first season; the Wildcats were unranked in the AP preseason poll and elected to finish fourth in the Pac-12.

Arizona quickly upended those perceptions, winning its first 11 games. The Wildcats swept Pac-12 season and tournament titles to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2018. Lloyd joined North Carolina’s Hodges and Bill Guthridge in 1998 as the only freshman coaches to earn a 1 seed. Arizona lost to Houston in the South Region semifinals, finishing 34-3.

Arizona’s run was a mix of having the right players to fit into Lloyd’s system and the 47-year-old coach’s penchant for player development as the Wildcats had lost four of their top six goal scorers. last season.

“I think we’ve really built some foundational pieces this year that are really going to serve us going forward,” Lloyd said.

Lloyd took what he learned in Gonzaga with him into the desert, made some adjustments, and turned Arizona into a smooth offensive juggernaut. The Wildcats led the nation in assists with 19.8 per game, were third in points (84.6 points) and had at least a 10-0 streak in (29 of 36) games.

Arizona’s defense, anchored by 7-footers Christian Koloko and Oumar Ballo, was nearly as dominant, finishing eighth nationally with 5.8 blocked shots per game.

“He knew what he wanted to do and came up with a plan,” assistant head coach Jack Murphy said. “Each step of the way, when one of us – myself or a member of staff – wanted to somehow speed things up or skip steps, he was always the voice of reason and stood by. to his plan.”

Once a lean and offensively limited freshman, Koloko became a dominant defensive player with a fuller offensive game under Lloyd’s tutelage. Bennedict Mathurin received an injection of confidence from Lloyd and became the Pac-12 Player of the Year and a potential NBA lottery pick.

“He’s a player coach – he does everything for his players,” Koloko said. “He’s a very detail-oriented coach, he goes into detail to really teach you the game.”

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More March Madness AP coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness and https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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