The stars aligned to bring Lindy La Rocque and her UNLV team, including Khayla Rooks, daughter of the late Arizona great Sean Rooks, to play in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday against Arizona at McKale Center, a place she knows well.
“In a lot of ways this feels like home, too, because I’ve been here so much,” said La Rocque. “When they’re like ‘No, down this hallway, and I’m like, ‘No, I know where I’m going.’ I didn’t say that, but I’m comfortable here. You guys have great hospitality.
“I love the people here, the history, the tradition. I think it was really cool to walk in with Khayla today because that adds just another level of, a layer of feeling, which is really cool.”
The LaRocque family ties to the University of Arizona and McKale Center started years before she was born when her father Al played for Lute Olson at Long Beach City College. Olson’s relationship with the elder LaRocque continued throughout and after his storied coaching career at Iowa and Arizona.
That relationship extended to both of their families.
“Coach Olson is my godfather … Coach and his family has and have been a part of my life since I can remember. I have many memories,” La Rocque said. “Some of my earliest basketball memories are here in McKale Center, being with coach (Olson) and the teams and watching them, and every year my dad would bring us for a week, and we would watch practice and hang out and eat all the Mexican food that we can and kind of do the whole Tucson thing.”
La Rocque’s ties to Arizona continue to be strong because of her lifelong relationship with the current Arizona men’s basketball associate head coach Jack Murphy, who coached alongside her father Al at Durango High School in Las Vegas. Murphy also coached Lindy early in her youth basketball playing days.
“Murph was actually my babysitter. That’s how he started out, and then it, I guess, maybe developed into a camp coach. But he leaves the babysitting part out,” she said. “Murph’s been an older brother to me since I was little. He came here. He was a manager for coach (Olson), and obviously that didn’t happen by chance. My dad (Al) played a huge role in that.”
When it comes to Murphy’s rise through the college coaching ranks, which includes an assistant coaching stint at Memphis, multiple stops at Arizona and seven years as a head coach at NAU, La Rocque has supported him and took notes.
“Murph’s own basketball career has just kind of blossomed and taken many different turns, and our family’s been right lock in step with him wherever it’s been,” she said. “He’s family, and I’m lucky to have many pseudo big brothers like that, mainly through, obviously, my father being a high school coach and a lot of different things, but Murph’s definitely one of them.”
The La Rocque’s relationship with Murphy initially started when he became manager of Al’s Durango basketball team. While Murphy has played many roles in La Rocque’s life, including coach, family friend, and mentor, he may always be known to Lindy as the babysitter.
“Murph says he was a player; he was actually the manager and the babysitter, so he didn’t play. So when the team was doing different things, Murph had to babysit my sister and I on this trip in Florida,” she said. “I don’t know where my parents were, but we were in the hotel room, and he had us jumping back and forth on the beds, and he taught us this bubble gum song. And it may be the most annoying song, and unfortunately, I still know it, but I’m not going to do that to you guys.”
La Rocque vividly remembers her parents’ anger at Murphy after she and her sister sang the song for the rest of the trip, and while La Rocque isn’t quite ready to sing the bubblegum song in public, she is saving it for the right opportunity.
“Murph also knows the song, so I’m sure he’s taught it to his children too or if he hasn’t then I’m going to,” she said with a laugh.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com writing intern Kevin Murphy was born and raised in Tucson, and has followed Arizona Wildcats athletics since childhood. Murphy is a journalist product manager with the Green Valley News & the Sahuarita Sun. He is currently attending the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU where he is working towards a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication and Media Studies. print