The Drive with Jody Oehler

The Drive with Jody Oehler

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Did Arizona Get It Right With Tommy Lloyd?

Arizona basketball has been fighting a battle for years now that has nothing to do with the FBI, NCAA or any other investigative body.

Its a fight thats been brewing that finally came to a head in the last week: 

Arizona fans versus Arizona fans.

These aren’t twitter troll jobs looking for their moment of social clout; these iare passionate, die hard fans/alums/former players who see two totally different things when looking at the same program.

On one side of the fight is a segment of the Arizona basketball fanbase that believes measuring UofA hoops is a simple exercise of stacking wins and losses. Sean Miller had a lot of those. Lute Olson had more. It doesn’t matter who takes over the program, as long as the wins follow.

And it is true. Winning is the overwhelming defining characteristic of Arizona basketball for the last four decades. Without it, there are no banners, statues or legacies. 

It’s what allowed Arizona to emerge as the team and program that defined an entire city, state and region. The head coach of Arizona basketball is the most significant sports position in the state of Arizona because it means you are entrusted to continue the only real tradition of success.

Tommy Lloyd knows about winning. Whether it’s recruiting battles or games, Lloyd has experienced an Arizona level of success. Since Lloyd joined their program twenty years ago Gonzaga won nearly 85% of their games, appeared in 20 consecutive NCAA tournaments and produced 10 All Americans and 13 NBA draft picks, including 8 first rounders.

Then there’s the other side of the Arizona fan base. The one that believes, rightfully in my opinion, that Arizona basketball is more than just wins and losses. It's a program culture of doing things the right way. It's a program culture of loyalty, family and trust. It's a program that should be about community immersion and celebration instead of isolation and condescension. 

You can taste Arizona basketball in the water. It's in the honey and milk. You can feel Arizona basketball even if it's not game day. And you feel enriched knowing that it’s a symbiotic relationship and not a one sided one; the program wants to hang out with you as much as you want to hang out with them.

Tommy Lloyd knows about community. Spokane, WA has Gonzaga basketball in its ether. Former players flock back to raise their families. Current players relish their community standing. It’s a Pacific Northwest version of what Tucson was for so much of the last 40 years relative to college basketball and community.

Tommy Lloyd is not a former Arizona player. He’s not a successful head coach seeking higher standing. We can litigate the process by which he was hired a different time because it is important but it's not what is most important right now.

You may not have even heard of Tommy Lloyd two months ago.

Now he's the head coach of the University of Arizona and after watching his introductory press conference and speaking with people close to the Gonzaga basketball program, I believe he is on the verge of scoring his first W in Arizona red and blue: Ending the fight between Arizona fans.

The first of what I expect to be many wins while at Arizona.

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