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‘There was really no decision to be made’: Why Tommy Lloyd chose Arizona, and how he plans to win

TUCSON, Arizona — Riccardo Fois laughs ironically when asked how Tommy Lloyd might adapt the Gonzaga blueprint to Arizona.

“Arizona was the blueprint for the original Gonzaga,” the Wildcats assistant said. “Arizona and Duke. Lute Olson and Coach K and the brotherhood and the way everybody was together, was one of the things Coach [Mark] Few tried to build.”

Jack Murphy, who attended Arizona and has now been on three different staffs in Tucson, shared a similar sentiment.

“The things they did early on at Gonzaga mirrored our program,” Murphy said.

The emphasis on developing unknown or unheralded talent. The uptempo, simplified version of offensive basketball. The connection with players and with a community viewed as vitally important in challenging better-resourced, bigger-city national competition. Gonzaga took that blueprint from Arizona. In 2021, under the 20-year Zags assistant Lloyd, the Wildcats are taking it right back.

During the same period when a cloud has loomed over the Arizona-basketball program, Gonzaga has won at least 28 games in nine straight seasons and advanced to at least the Sweet 16 in six straight NCAA tournaments. The Zags have landed a top-five prospect in two straight recruiting classes, including Chet Holmgren, the No. 1 prospect in 2021.

And now Arizona is hoping Lloyd, the 46-year-old longtime Gonzaga aide this outlet once suggested was “college basketball’s most important coach,” can bring some of that Spokane magic to the other side of the West Coast.

Will it work?

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