Arizona’s Tommy Lloyd took the stage at Pac-12 Basketball Media Day on Wednesday as the league’s reigning Coach of the Year and the leader of the defending champions. An awful lot has changed in a year.

The last time he was in this setting, he was an unknown first-year head coach. After decades of service on Mark Few’s bench at Gonzaga, most folks had an idea of what Lloyd could be as a head coach, but few expected the Wildcats to break out last season like they did.

Lloyd engineered a 33-4 season, the Pac-12’s first 18-win team in conference play, and helped the Cats to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament after claiming both the regular-season and conference tournament crowns.

Arizona is the hunter again this season, picked to finish second behind a UCLA team it beat in two out of three tries a year ago.

Lloyd touched on the potential for continued matchups with UCLA even after the Bruins leave the conference in 2024, on how the team improves this season, and more.

Here’s everything Lloyd said:

Opening statement

“It’s great to be here again. We’re excited to start a new journey. Obviously we’ve got a great group of guys. These two have done a great job this preseason getting this team ready to roll. So we’re excited to see what the season brings.”

On USC and UCLA leaving the league

“Obviously we’re disappointed because I love competing against those schools. Again, they’ve got to make the decisions that they think are best for their athletic program. So I’m going to respect that.

“I really believe and I feel strongly that the brand of Arizona basketball is strong enough to stand on its own. So I’m just going to focus on doing the best job at Arizona, and obviously we want to do everything we can to compete for conference championships and compete for national championships. I mean, that’s still my focus.

“So I wish those guys the best of luck. Hopefully, I’ll be able to compete with them obviously the next couple years and then beyond. I would love to continue to play those schools.”

On the Red and Blue game being more competitive than you’d typically expect from an intra-team scrimmage

“I like to tell our guys they need to have fun, enjoy the moment because it’s definitely a community event. Any time you get 15,000 people to come to a scrimmage, it’s pretty cool.

“For me, it’s great to have our guys play live in front of people for the first time and kind of get that out of their system. So I told our guys I want them to compete. Whenever we take the court, we want to play hard. We want to play smart. So we just use that as another teaching tool, and we take it, and we’ll break down the film like we would for any other game and try to learn from it.”

On whether Arizona has had discussions about keeping a standing game with UCLA on the schedule beyond 2023

“Not to this point. Everything is so new, and there’s so many moving parts. I’m just giving you my personal opinion, and so I haven’t like run that through the channels or even talked to UCLA about it.

“I’m sure in the near future we’ll sit down and have to have those conversations, and hopefully we can figure something out.”

On Kerr Kriisa battling injury late last season

“I’ll give Kerr a ton of credit. He and I have never really talked about it, but he had a real injury. For him to give himself up and try to come back and play for our team at the end says a lot about him.

“So I was really proud of how he approached it, but I was also proud of our guys. I don’t know how many teams could lose their point guard and win four postseason games. So I thought it was — it said a lot about the other guys in our program. It said a lot about Kerr how he attacked that and tried to come back for his teammates.”

On the role of continuity in a program and how current changes in college basketball challenge that pursuit

“So many things have changed, and there’s so many more moving parts than maybe there was 10, 15 years ago. I think it comes down to one thing. I think it comes down to treating people right. I think, if you treat people right, you treat players right, I think you have a better chance of them wanting to stay around.

“That being said, I’m also really excited for the guys that did leave and the opportunities that they’ve created for themselves. So we’re just going to attack it on a day-to-day basis and try to make good simple decision after good simple decision and treat people right. I think that’s going to be the foundation of our continuity.”

On how hard it is to recruit a prospect to Arizona compared to Gonzaga

“First off, recruiting is tough, I think no matter where you’re at. To me, more important than trying to talk kids into coming to Arizona, it’s just about — what I always try to do is figure how are we going to build the best team for the upcoming season and have a few pieces we can develop for the future.

“So I try not to put too much stock in or pressure on our staff that we have to go out and recruit five McDonald’s All-Americans because I don’t know if that always translates into winning and consistency.

“Listen, you need good players. Bar none, that’s 100%. And I would just say I’m still in the learning process of that too, to be honest with you. I can’t tell you exactly what the differences are or what it’s going to look like a few years from now.

“But we’re going to try to be genuine. We’re going to try not to over-promise and under-deliver when you recruit kids. I think it’s really important when you recruit somebody, you’re doing it with that in mind of that kid being successful at your school. Not just, hey, we’ll see how this kid does, and if it doesn’t work after a year, we’ll get rid of him.

“So I’m trying to be really methodical and make sure that we deliver on the things we talk about when we recruit a kid. I’m probably being a little cautious, to be honest with you, and slowly build how we recruit at Arizona because I want to make sure we’re being mindful and doing it the right way.”

On whether he anticipated the kind of success Arizona enjoyed in Year 1 or if he expected more of a rebuild

“No. I mean, listen, none of these guys have played in the NCAA Tournament. And so I wanted to make sure we were due. That was honestly my first objective, is we’re going to get to the Tournament. Then other than that, I didn’t set any limitations. I mean, let’s see how good we can get, and these guys did an unbelievable job last year of just getting better week by week. When we lost, we learned from it. So it was a joy.

“All these seasons are journeys, and they kind of unfold and become their own story. So that’s what makes it fun. But I wasn’t trying to script what we were doing last year. I was just trying to give these guys everything I got, and I was just trying to kind of follow their lead, and they did an amazing job.”

On what he tried to establish in Year 1

“We wanted to establish a style of play. We wanted to implement a system with great pace, great player movement, great ball movement. On defense we want to be tenacious. We want to really pressure the basketball. And I really wanted to hammer home, more than anything, the effort and energy that we’re going to play with every single day.”

On what they can take away from having to face physical programs like TCU and Houston in the 2022 NCAA Tournament

“TCU and Houston are two really good programs. Incredibly physical. Very well coached. I thought we were a really physical team as well. For me, that’s the number one standard. You have to like can you check that box? Can you go play in physical, high-level games. Are you a team that can go toe to toe?

“And so I really want to see if we can continue to build that at Arizona. I think we have some guys now in our program that do have — that have shown that toughness. I think we have maybe some other guys in our program that might not be, quote, unquote, you wouldn’t say they’re a tough guy, but I think we need to establish that identity, and we’re going to continue to grow. Because like there’s nothing worse than getting in a game, in a tournament or whatever, and just being physically outmatched and not being able to win that game. So we want to make sure we’re doing everything we can in those physical matchups to come out on top.”

On having a diverse roster

“I mean, for me, obviously I’m comfortable coaching international basketball players, and hopefully if I continue to coach for a long time, it will continue to be an important part of any program I’m associated with.

‘We love having a really diverse group of people in our locker room. I think it makes it a lot of fun. Just the little differences, the little nuances that come up, the language things. We have a ton of fun with guys. Like we’re having a lot of fun with Filip right now from Serbia, and he’s a great kid, and he does it all smiling. So, no, I think it’s just a ton of fun. Listen, I love the way these guys, they think the game, and they play, and I think it’s right in line with how I like to coach.

“Listen, if you’re watching these NBA games, I mean, a lot of these are the same concepts that they’re playing with in the NBA. I mean, you watch how those guys are able to move the ball now in the NBA. I know there’s some great isolation players in the NBA, but there’s a lot of players that really know how to play basketball and move the ball well, and they’re playing with some great concepts. To me, I think we can do our own little version of that in college, and I think it’s pretty cool.”