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The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

Gonzaga has a coach-in-waiting. How does that impact the program?

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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Tommy Lloyd (left) and Mark Few (AP)

When Gonzaga coach Mark Few revealed this past weekend that assistant Tommy Lloyd will succeed him if he retires, it was an announcement that sounded more important than it actually is.

Few, 49, has shown no signs he plans to either retire or leave Gonzaga anytime soon, so the Zags' head coaching job may not be vacant for another decade or longer. Unless Lloyd is comfortable being a life-long assistant the way Mike Hopkins has been at Syracuse, it's hard not to see him accepting a head coaching job during that time the way former Few assistants Bill Grier (San Diego) and Leon Rice (Boise State) did.

The concept of a coach-in-waiting has become a popular way for programs to maintain stability in the eyes' of recruits despite the presence of a renowned head coach who's nearing retirement age. Arizona tried it and failed at the end of Lute Olson's tenure. More recently, Syracuse has announced Hopkins will replace Jim Boeheim whenever he retires, San Diego State has tabbed Brian Dutcher as Steve Fisher's successor and SMU has chosen Tim Jankovic as its next coach whenever Larry Brown leaves.

What's unusual about Gonzaga naming a coach-in-waiting is Few isn't nearing retirement age. Unless he experiences a change of heart and accepts one of the major-conference gigs he's frequently offered or decides coaching is taking away from his family life too much, the succession plan won't be needed for quite a while.

Why publicly name the Lloyd as coach-in-waiting then? The guess here is to provide the 37-year-old assistant incentive to stay at Gonzaga as long as possible.

Lloyd's ability to recruit in Canada and Europe has been a tremendous asset to Gonzaga. From Ronny Turiaf, to Elias Harris, to Kevin Pangos, Lloyd has landed foreign recruits who have become stars for the Zags. In Gonzaga's most recent class, he secured highly touted Polish 7-footer Przemek Karnowski, who chose the Zags over Cal and a handful of other programs. 

The coach-in-waiting tag probably won't be enough to keep Lloyd for the duration of Few's tenure, but if it prevents Lloyd from snapping up the first low-major head coaching offer he receives, then perhaps it serves some purpose.

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