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Tommy Lloyd faces 'potential obstacles' as new Arizona men's basketball coach

Jeremy Cluff
Arizona Republic

In a statement after he was hired as the new men's basketball coach at the University of Arizona on Wednesday, Tommy Lloyd said "While there are certainly potential obstacles ahead for our program, I embrace the challenge as we will build on the foundation in place to compete for Pac-12 and national championships.”

He wasn't kidding about the "potential obstacles."

Lloyd, 46, a long-time assistant at Gonzaga, faces a lot of challenges replacing Sean Miller as the Arizona Wildcats' coach.

None are bigger than the potential looming sanctions hanging over the program.

The school imposed a postseason ban on itself last season, making it ineligible for the Pac-12 and NCAA Tournaments, but the NCAA could still come done hard on the program

The Arizona Daily Star's Bruce Pascoe summed up the situation as follows: "If UA’s case is judged to be in the category of “Level I aggravated” — and the NCAA's Notice of Allegations listed far more aggravating than mitigating factors — the NCAA’s penalty matrix calls for a postseason ban of two to five years. The NCAA issued a Notice of Allegations to Arizona in October that contained five Level I charges, including four involving Miller and his former staffers plus one against UA for a lack of institutional control. (Arizona president Robert) Robbins and (Arizona athletic director Dave Heeke were also cited as aggravating factors for compromising the integrity of the investigation. After receiving the NOA on Oct. 21, the school requested its case be moved off the standard NCAA resolution track to the new Independent Accountability Resolution Process. The IARP is made up mostly of independent attorneys and investigators who are not affiliated with the NCAA, but they have to follow the NCAA’s penalty matrix once a judgment is made. Created in the wake of the federal investigation into college basketball, the IARP currently is processing cases from six schools and has not yet completed any. There is no public timetable for any of them to be finished, suggesting Arizona may not know if it faces additional allegations anytime soon."

More:Tommy Lloyd hire reaction: Arizona basketball makes home-run hire with Gonzaga assistant?

The possible looming NCAA sanctions aren't the only challenge ahead of Lloyd.

He also has to get a coaching staff and a roster ready for next season and he is getting a late start.

On Wednesday, freshman Kerr Kriisa told ESPN that he will be entering the transfer portal, where the team has already lost Ira Lee, Daniel Batcho, Jemarl Baker and Terrell Browns.

James Akinjo has declared for the NBA draft, although he could still return to Tucson.

Arizona also could lose its latest recruiting class.

Washington forward Kim Aiken committed to Arizona the day before Miller was fired, while guard K.J. Simpson has asked to be released and the future of Shane Nowell and Shane Dezonie up in the air.

Arizona has already lost guards Jemarl Baker and Terrell Brown and forwards Ira Lee and Daniel Batcho to the transfer portal. Freshman Kerr Kriisa told ESPN on Wednesday that he will be doing the same, though it's possible he returns.

That leaves nine players on the current roster counting James Akinjo, who is testing the NBA Draft waters. The three players UA signed last fall are all tentative. Guard K.J.Simpson has been expecting his release, while wing Shane Nowell was waiting to see who the new UA coach is and guard Shane Dezonie has not responded to messages. UA also secured a reported commitment from Eastern Washington forward Kim Aiken a day before Miller was fired.

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As for the coaching staff, Pascoe reported that Lloyd might consider retaining Arizona associate head coach Jack Murphy, but questions remain about the rest of his staff.

Former Arizona star Jason Terry was on Miller's staff last season and he interviewed for the job.

Could he be on the Lloyd's coaching staff?

Another potential challenge for Lloyd? Winning over the fans, and especially the alumni, who are very skeptical of his hire (and who wanted a former Wildcats player or coach to get the position).

Former Wildcats star Gilbert Arenas and others expressed concerns about him potentially being the hire after Miller was fired.

Arenas slammed Lloyd's candidacy for the coaching job in Tucson on an Instagram Live Monday, saying he "doesn't have credentials" to take over the program.

"I don't even want to say his name because he doesn't deserve it," Arenas said of Lloyd. "You are an assistant coach, OK. You assist."

More:Why Gonzaga's Tommy Lloyd was the 'frontrunner' to replace Sean Miller

Tommy Lloyd has some challenges ahead of him as the new Arizona men's basketball coach.

While there are challenges ahead of Lloyd, he does bring a lot of positives to the position at Arizona.

Lloyd is the first head coach hired at Arizona without head coaching experience since 1972, but he does have a record as a top assistant coach at one of the nation's top basketball programs.

He is also considered a top recruiter, especially of international talent.

Pascoe wrote that Lloyd's offensive mind also sets him apart.

He wrote: "Lloyd is also highly regarded for his player development and game strategy, having helped devise an offense that was the best nationally in offensive efficiency last season. The Zags were undefeated until they lost to Baylor in the national championship game."

Lloyd appears to know what he is getting into as the coach at Arizona.

 "I know how much Arizona basketball means to the institution, its fans, its community and the state, and I cannot wait to get started," he said in his first statement as the Wildcats' coach. "That work begins now. My family and I are excited to settle in Tucson and begin a new chapter."

He has a lot of work to do.

More:Sean Miller comments on firing as Arizona coach: 'It was an honor to be the head coach'

The Arizona Daily Star's Bruce Pascoe contributed to this story.