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UNLV’s Lindy La Rocque has come home to family, expectations

Lindy La Rocque has come home and her family is happier than when Dad’s team used to win one at the buzzer. But with the reunion comes expectations.

Hence, the double-edged sword.

Winning at the college level has never been an issue for UNLV’s new women’s basketball coach. It’s all she knows.

As for her new team, it last made the NCAA Tournament in 2002, the same year Sanyo released the first cell phone with … wait for it … a built-in camera.

“She’s well aware of the (UNLV) wins and losses,” Al La Rocque said. “But she has this intense, competitive drive. I know they will play hard, be in great condition and very well prepared. She’s ready for this.

“I’ll be sick to my stomach watching games. You have no control over what happens. The buck stops with her. That means she will get the good tweets and the bad tweets that come with it. Mom (Beverly) and Dad only want the good tweets, which is one reason Dad isn’t on social media.”

Lindy La Rocque will be part of a virtual Rebel Caravan set to run June 9-18, one way in which UNLV can introduce fans to new head coaches on campus.

You can be certain many watching will have heard of the La Rocque name.

Al coached 19 years between Western and Durango, ranking eighth all-time in wins locally. He also assisted the Durango girls for five seasons.

He taught at the high school level for 34 years before retiring.

Lindy is one of the finest players to run up and down a Las Vegas court, still the all-time leading scorer (boys and girls) at Durango with 2,678 points.

She would then help lead Stanford to four consecutive Final Fours before graduating with a degree in science, technology and society, with an emphasis on earth systems, civil and environmental engineering and calculus.

I have no idea what that means, but I’m petty sure she won’t struggle drawing up a play.

It’s hardly an original tale. Lindy and sister Ally — the Director of Administration for the Kansas State women’s team — grew up as the kids of a coach and embraced the gym as a second home. Most days, it probably felt as their primary residence.

Even when Lindy chose to depart the game after college and enter the corporate world, the itch never ceased. Within several months, she was back in a gym.

There are coaching mentors and then there is learning under two Hall of Famers, first as a graduate assistant for Sherri Coale at Oklahoma and then back at Stanford under Tara VanDerveer. There was also a stop at Belmont University.

La Rocque as a player and assistant in college made the NCAAs 10 times in 11 years.

UNLV has made eight … ever.

Put in work

“We all know that winning just doesn’t happen,” she said. “More than anything, the results and winning are a product of the work that is put in. We’re going to focus on the work and the everyday process that needs to be a standard and expectation for our program. Winning is fun. There’s nothing more fun. But you have to earn it.”

Kids dream. La Rocque once did about becoming a WNBA player. She also did about being a high school coach and math teacher. But she will tell you the gap — however short — between trading in hightops for a business suit convinced her of an obvious career path.

The only time UNLV was any good at women’s basketball, consistently making the NCAAs, it averaged 24 wins between 1982-1993. Both as co-head coach and then head coach, Jim Bolla won 300 games over 14 seasons.

Now, a former local prep star will try to rediscover such results.

La Rocque had begun her corporate job when a former teammate asked her to assist on a local high school varsity team. It was a part-time gig that paid nothing. Just what fate ordered.

“I loved it and it helped me adjust to the coaching part,” La Rocque said. “It was around Christmas time when the weather starts to get a little cold and the nights come sooner. Those are the senses, the sights, the smells, the sounds that tell you that it’s basketball season.

“I remember calling my Dad and saying, ‘I think I’m ready.’”

So she came home to the game.

And now, as a first-time college head coach, to her home.

For the Rebel Caravan’s full schedule of events and registration links, visit UNLVRebels.com/caravan.

Contact columnist Ed Graney at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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