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Don’t worry, Lady Rebels fans: Lindy La Rocque has no plans to leave

Updated March 22, 2024 - 1:30 pm

LOS ANGELES — They have called to gauge her interest. To see if Lindy La Rocque has any desire to be elsewhere. If there are other challenges she might want to pursue.

The conversations haven’t lasted long.

“I try to be where my feet are,” La Rocque said.

You win this much as a women’s college basketball coach and other programs will be interested. But little do they know what drives La Rocque at UNLV. The level of happiness she has found since returning to her hometown in 2020 and putting the program on a national map it hadn’t known in decades.

The Lady Rebels, who finished the regular season ranked 20th by The Associated Press, are back in the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year, a No. 10 seed that meets No. 7 Creighton in a first-round game Saturday at UCLA.

La Rocque, 34, is 102-21 in four seasons with three straight Mountain West regular-season and tournament championships, a first in conference history. She is 63-9 in league play. Her teams have dominated what is a conference void of many good programs.

But none of it has created a wandering eye, a feeling that she needs to be elsewhere to accomplish those professional goals of NCAA success that some might believe are unattainable at UNLV.

She thinks they are possible.

“I don’t look at this place and think we’re missing this huge piece to the puzzle to get it done from a resource standpoint,” La Rocque said. “I don’t look at other schools and say, ‘Well, if we had what they have, we for sure could get it done.’

“We’ve got a great city, a sports town, a university that’s very supportive, facilities. Not one glaring hole is keeping us from where we want to go.”

Which, for starters, is deeper into the NCAA Tournament.

UNLV (30-2) has lost in the first round of its two appearances under La Rocque and will be a lower seed than its opponent for the third time. But that hasn’t diminished the confidence level of the Lady Rebels. They’re sure this is the time.

And their coach is sure this is the where she wants to be.

“I don’t know how much happier I could be,” La Rocque said. “I love it here. My family is here. I have a great job. We’re winning. I’m building my personal life and immediate family. I have great players, a great staff, a great administration that supports everything I want to do. I’d like to think I’m pretty grounded about what makes me happy and what I’m looking for. I don’t feel unfulfilled here.

“Some of my personal goals are just as important as my professional ones. To be able to raise my family around my family — that’s really important at this phase in my life.”

A family that’s about to grow by one for the former Durango High star, the school’s career scoring leader.

Due in July

You might remember this part: There were seven minutes remaining in the third quarter of an exhibition win against Chico State some 16 months ago when La Rocque stood up to call a play. And she instantly knew.

Her water broke.

The next day, Ellie Mae Cunningham was born to La Rocque and her husband, Dan Cunningham.

Now, a second child is on the way.

La Rocque is due in July. She joked that the timing of this pregnancy was actually better than the last.

“We’ll have a summer baby no matter what,” she said. “It will be easier for me to make sure I spend time with the baby. The pregnancy part was a little different during the season. It was definitely a challenge with the energy level and fatigue and sickness and all of that.

“But healthy timing and God’s timing is the right timing. I’ll have two children under the age of 2. We’re still playing man-to-man defense, but I need grandparents and friends and everyone else to help.”

UNLV athletic director Erick Harper sees La Rocque almost daily. Sees her smile. Sees a coach who is content in her surroundings and delighted with her place at the university.

Sees someone who handles adversity better than a few years ago. Who does a terrific job coming out of timeouts and halftime. Who when she gets her foot on an opponent’s throat doesn’t let it up for air.

Harper also understands you can’t control everything when it comes to a successful coach and their future.

“Lindy and I do a very good job communicating with each other,” Harper said. “She knows when I say my door is open, it’s truly open. I believe her when she says he’s happy.”

Yes. But what if Stanford eventually called?

La Rocque played for the Cardinal, having helped the famed program to four consecutive Final Fours. She was also an assistant to Hall of Fame coach Tara VanDerveer.

“They’re not (calling),” La Rocque said. “Maybe one day. I know them really well, and Tara isn’t done. I don’t think I have to worry about that any time soon. But I’m also human … ”

Empowering women

She calls it the next rung on the ladder that needs to be scaled. NCAA success. While the annual goal is to claim a conference championship, winning in March is paramount in UNLV’s thoughts.

Her players understand the mission and have their coach’s back.

“She has done a great job being a role model for all of us, empowering us as women,” senior star Desi-Rae Young said. “She lets us know about when things are good and bad, and we need that. She was coached by and coached for (VanDerveer), so she understands what it takes to win.

“I don’t think it’s going to be hard to keep her here. She’s from Las Vegas. Her family is here. She’s about to have a second child born here. She’ll be here for a long time. She’s building a foundation, and I know she wants to see it grow.”

This is La Rocque’s thought process: That making the NCAA Tournament should be an expected part of each season. That the Lady Rebels need to continue to grow their reputation beyond the Mountain West.

That she intends to see things through.

“The success has been awesome, but wouldn’t be nearly as great if you couldn’t share it with the people you love and love being around,” she said. “For me, that’s my family and the Las Vegas community.

“Enjoy the people in the journey along with the journey.”

Contact Ed Graney at egraney@reviewjournal.com. Follow @edgraney on X.

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