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A disappointing end to a historic Arizona Basketball season came about Thursday night against the Houston Cougars in the Sweet 16 in San Antonio.
And there were certainly drawbacks that were exposed about this Arizona Basketball team, mainly the enigmatic nature that is sophomore power forward Azuolas Tubelis. Against smaller teams, Arizona needed the 6-10 big man to impose his will and, against Houston, quite the opposite happened as Tubelis became a major liability on both ends of the court.
Additionally, Arizona’s lack of perimeter quickness and strength was also taken advantage of by a Houston team which thrives off pressure.
But all of that is small potatoes to the resounding success that was this Arizona Basketball season and the hiring of Tommy Lloyd.
Lloyd brought Arizona back to the nation’s forefront. From early NCAA tournament exits, federal and NCAA investigations and tournament postseason bans, Arizona Basketball fans were a beaten down group before Lloyd’s arrival
Factor in the nearly 2,000 days it had been since Arizona won an NCAA tournament and there was a lot of negativity for a proud fan base to project.
Tommy Lloyd changed that. Immediately. From his preseason proclamations that Arizona would run and push the pace to stating that he knew this was a good team because he knew what good teams looked like to projecting Christian Koloko as a conference defensive player of the year candidate, Lloyd was prophetic on nearly every aspect.
And much of this came with a human touch not seen publicly in these parts in a years.
When asked earlier in the season what was responsible for Christian Koloko’s rapid improvement, Lloyd responded “We love on him.”
In short; Positive encouragement in response to mistakes as opposed to snarl and sweat.
When one thinks of Arizona basketball and the empire that Lute Olson built, a regal class jumps out.
Known for his immaculate hair and style, it was perhaps what Olson didn’t say that stuck out. Most college coaches swear to a certain extent, but Olson eschewed those tactics for a measured intensity that resonates to this day.
Whatever you think of ex-UA Coach Sean Miller it’s impossible to argue that the vulgarity laced screaming and aggressive manner was a completely different approach than Olson’s.
Lloyd’s calm and calculated demeanor certainly was more indicative of the Olson style that ruled Tucson for nearly 25 years.
But the differences don’t stop on appearance. The shift in the style of play between Lute Olson and Sean Miller could’t have been more stark. Known for his up and down nature and embracing his players to express their abilities on the court, Olson was the epitome of a coach who let his players run with freedom.
Sean Miller won a lot of games at Arizona, but nobody would consider his offenses dynamic or free flowing as evidenced by Miller insisting on ex UA point guard TJ McConnell running the ball to half court to wait for a play to be called out.
In one of Tommy Lloyd’s first press conferences he mentioned that Arizona was going to run, not because it was the best way to recruit players but because it was the best way to win.
And win, Arizona, did. To the tune of a Pac-12 regular and postseason championship and the number overall seed in the NCAA tournament.
Arizona Basketball is back and isn’t going anywhere. And will do it with a style and class the entire city can get behind. Tommy Lloyd deserves a tip of the cap from us all.
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