SACRAMENTO, Calif.—Every loss can feel like the end of the world, no matter when and against whom. Getting upset by a No. 15 seed in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, thus causing the season to come to an abrupt halt, only exacerbates that reaction.
But rather than wallow in despair, Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd stayed positive in his postgame press conference after the second-seeded Wildcats lost to Princeton.
“I’ve been blessed,” Lloyd said. “I’ve had a great start to my coaching career, at Gonzaga and coming to Arizona. There’s gonna be some bad with a lot of good, and I’m built for it. This is only a small setback.”
Our full recap from the loss can be found here. Below is what Lloyd, Azuolas Tubelis and Kylan Boswell said afterward:
Lloyd on the late collapse: “I’m just sad for these guys, they don’t really get to experience how special an NCAA run is, because these guys were built to do that. And we ran into a good team today that made all the right plays at the right time and we weren’t able to separate from them enough when we had the opportunities. That’s what happens when you are able to stick around a basketball game. They made enough plays down the stretch and we didn’t. They’re a hard team to play against, I knew it was going to be a tough game. That program has a ton of pride and they’re well coached and have great fundamentals, and that showed today.”
On Arizona getting outrebounded and outscored in the paint: “Sitting here in my seat, you have an All-American big guy, an all-conference big guy, you go inside, over and over and over and over, and you shoot seven free throws. I don’t know if they’re fouls or not. They must not have been because obviously they didn’t get called. When the game is reffed like that it makes it tough. When you have an advantage ... either they’re really physical and not fouling or they’re not calling the fouls. And I haven’t reviewed the game, so I’m not saying one way or another, but it makes it tough. It makes it tough when your advantage is negated a little bit. I thought we did a good job, for the most part, having a pretty good conviction of going inside, we just didn’t make enough shots and we didn’t get rewarded with whistles. That’s how it goes.”
On what led to Princeton’s comeback: “They got a couple of offensive rebounds that led to big plays. And we got the ball in front of the rim a couple of times and didn’t deliver. And I didn’t think our end of the game execution, I didn’t think our poise was what it has been in close games. And that’s a little disappointing, but I told our guys, if you want to be a great player, and you want to be a great coach, we all got to learn from this. We got to go back and figure out what happened, and understand the value of being up 10 to 12 points with 10 minutes to go and put the hammer on people and not letting people get back in the game. Traditionally we’ve been built to do that. Recently, we’ve kind of struggled in that area a little bit and kind of let people back in the game. If you play with fire, you’re gonna get burned, and obviously we did today.”
On players in the locker room saying there was a lack of energy: “That’s interesting. I don’t know. I know that wasn’t the message. I thought we had a good week of preparation, and I thought we were trying to build for a tournament run. Maybe some of these guys just were a little bit nervous. No one expected the game to be easier than it was, but it definitely wasn’t the message from the coaching staff. I just know this: nothing great in life is achieved without energy and enthusiasm. I think that’s one of the things is players need to take a look in the mirror. That’s the controllable by them, their effort and their energy, so we can do better there.”
On how the 2022-23 season went overall: “I think we had a great season. We’re still trying to build and develop this program, and I’m still trying to develop as a coach. I think we were ranked in the top 10 for most of the year, I think these guys earned that. I thought we performed well on lots of big stages. Just unfortunately, ultimately you’re going to be judged sometimes by how you play in this tournament. That’s the good and the bad of it. And so like I said, I’ve been on the good side a lot. So I’m tough enough to be on the bad side and learn from and have it kind of help re-energize me to make sure that we come back to that as a program.”
On keeping composed so soon after a season-ending loss: “I know how hard it is. And I understand how hard it is. If you want to do great things in life, you got to be willing to step in some dogshit once in a while, that’s just how it is. And we did today. A lot of it was self-inflicted and a lot of it was from a great opponent who has a lot of pride. I knew it was gonna be a hard game. This coaching thing is hard, because you’re literally judged on wins and losses in a moment’s notice. I don’t think that’s a healthy way to live your life if you are a coach. I know it’s gut wrenching, and I’ll probably go through a swing of emotions in the next few days. But I love what I do, and I couldn’t imagine having a real job, and I’m thankful for the job and I’m thankful for the opportunity our president, who is sitting here, gave me. I owe it to the game of basketball. I owe it to these players, I owe it to my family to keep my head up, stay classy. I think that’s the only way to operate. And I promise you, I’ll get better from this. I have lots to learn as a coach. I can’t wait to roll up my sleeves and start the process and getting better.”
On if the 7-man rotation and injuries led to the quick exit: “We’ll never know. We’re not using that as excuses. I’m sure everybody has injuries this time of year. Our players that were a little banged up played, and they were out there and they were functioning. I don’t know if that really had anything to do with it.”
Tubelis on what could have been done differently down the stretch: “Take care of the ball and not rush our shots. I feel like we did it every time we were up 10 and they get a fast break or an and-1, or a fastbreak 3. I don’t know, we just need to be more consistent than that.”
On his future: “My thoughts right now are just to get better. Take some time off and get back into the gym. I have no idea what I’m gonna play, I have no idea where I’m going to play or what to do. We just lost a tough game, so you can’t really expect an answer right now.”
Boswell on building off this loss: “I would say just going back to the drawing board. Coach Lloyd, the coaching staff. Regrouping as a team. That’s really our main focus, just getting ready to go into the summer, getting prepared for next season.”