Arizona head coach Tommy Lloyd will face the coach who helped give him his start in the business when the Wildcats face Long Beach State, Thursday, in Salt Lake City, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Lloyd was playing at Walla Walla Community College when Monson, then the Gonzaga head coach, recruited him to transfer to Gonzaga, though he didn’t offer Lloyd a scholarship.

“Good for them, they found somebody better,” said Lloyd. “He said that if I ever wanted to get into coaching I should give him a call, so when I got done with playing, I did.”

Monson soon left for the University of Minnesota but his Gonzaga successor, Mark Few, honored the agreement. While Lloyd and Monson never coached together, they became close.

“Our families are friends,” said Lloyd. “Our wives are friends. Our kids are on group chats together. It’s probably as close as you can be in this coaching business.”

Lloyd would assist Gonzaga as it became a national power. Monson has spent the past seventeen seasons at Long Beach State University. Recently, the university told Monson he wouldn’t return for next season. Then, unexpectedly, the Beach won the Big West Tournament, earning the NCAA Tournament’s automatic bid.

“I’m sure they are playing spirited basketball right now.”

Now, Lloyd has the task of winning a game that would mark the end of the Long Beach State career of the coach who gave him his start in his chosen profession.

“My job is to lead Arizona. That’s where one hundred percent of my effort and energy is. And, he sill has a job. Maybe he doesn’t going forward, but he’s going to coach again somewhere, and I’m sure they are going to use it as a rallying point for their program to see if they can win one more.”

Thirty years after meeting at Walla Walla Community College, Lloyd will coach against Monson in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

“He’s a great family friend. He’s a really good man, and he’s one of the funniest people I know. So, I’m proud to be part of that coaching tree, and he’s obviously at the very top of it.”