“He wanted the Sean Miller era over. He wanted to move on from it. He just felt like the program had gone through so much.”
How bad did it get in Tuscon? Even Hall of Fame coach Lute Olson was tired of it. Olson has always been a gentleman, but before his death last summer couldn’t refrain from wishing the Wildcats would move on. That’s what college hoops insider Jeff Goodman told me this morning.
“When I sat down with Lute Olson before he passed away. You could tell, and he had trouble talking at that point, but he even, you could see it on his face.”
Arizona is battling for top-40 recruit Arthur Kaluma with Syracuse, Washington and Creighton. A decision is expected as early as this weekend. The Wildcats are largely seen as the favorite to land Kaluma primarily due to proximity, because the basketball hasn’t been very good lately. Miller was given the pink slip this spring after a backslide for the Wildcats over the last three years. They missed the tourney in ’19, Covid wiped out last year’s March Madness, and this year was a self-imposed ban.
That ban came from the Adidas scandal, and Miller had gone since ’17 in even winning a tourney game. That’s a lifetime for one of the preeminent programs out west. In steps Gonzaga lifer Tommy Lloyd, who knows a good situation when he sees it. The Wildcats have a great tradition, high expectations, and a power conference without a clear big dog. While Miller had some success (three Elite 8s), many feel he underachieved. Lloyd spent two decades at Gonzaga with Mark Few. He wasn’t leaving for just any job.
The scandal, ensuing investigation, and perpetual guillotine hanging over the program exhausted everyone. Add to that a coach that couldn’t recover on the floor, and the Wildcats were in need of a fresh start.
“Tommy Lloyd is the right guy,” Goodman says. “Let’s see what he can do. Obviously, his international ties are strong. You’re just trying to get guys, Top 50, top 100 guys. He’s going to go heavy international because thats where his strongest ties are.”
“I’m happy they moved onto a new chapter.”
Kaluma has good options. Syracuse is a perennial tourney team with fantastic talent in a power conference. Creighton is coming off a Sweet 16. Washington has an elite recruiter in Mike Hopkins. But the advantage seems to sit with Arizona, mainly because Lloyd isn’t Miller.