When I last spoke with Roland LaVetter two years ago for a feature I was writing on Lafayette “Fat” Lever, his star player at Pueblo High School in the late 1970’s, LaVetter told me he was trying to stay active by routinely riding his bike around the neighborhood.
He told me turning 80 was not going to stop him.
LaVetter’s conversation about Lever, who led the Warriors to state titles in 1976-77 and 1977-78, turned toward family. His players were part of his family.
“We moved (Lever) up to the varsity when he was a sophomore, so he got stuck with me a lot,” he said with a chuckle. “His kids are our kids. They’ve been like members of the family. That’s the way we’ve been working.”
LaVetter, 82, lived to see 80 and took with him memories of success throughout his storied career at Pueblo and Rincon/University. He passed away at age 82 on Saturday.
“He is like my Godfather,” said Lever in the 2020 story, which was part of the 52Oh So Good series featuring homegrown talent who made it big.
Lever knew LaVetter since Lever’s days as a youth playing at the Boys & Girls Club.
The former ASU and Denver Nuggets standout point guard also talked about the impact legendary Pueblo tennis coach, administrator and counselor Ed Nuñez made on his life. Nuñez, part of Pueblo’s first graduating class in 1960, passed away shortly after the publication of the story from kidney failure at 78.
“They supported me through good times and bad,” Lever said of LaVetter and Nuñez, both Pima County Sports Hall of Famers such as himself. “You learn to be who you are — not what everybody thinks you are — around those type of people.”
The newer gym at Pueblo bears Lever’s name and the older one is named after LaVetter.
— Andy Morales (@AndyMorales8) February 6, 2019
LaVetter’s brother Chuck was a longtime coach at Eastern Arizona College in Thatcher.
Roland LaVetter, a Tucson High graduate who also earned his education degree at Arizona, moved from Pueblo to Rincon/University in 1980 and coached there for a decade. He ended his coaching career leading the Pueblo girls basketball program in the early 1990’s.
His son Lance LaVetter was a standout guard at Rincon/University while playing for his father. He went on to play at Pima College and NAU before embarking on his coaching career. He ultimately landed coaching positions as an assistant at New Mexico State, the women’s basketball program at Portland and then St. Louis before becoming the director of basketball operations at Washington under Lorenzo Romar.
He was with the Huskies for 12 seasons before serving as an assistant at Seattle University from 2015-17.
The younger LaVetter, a 1986 graduate of Rincon/University, was then the director of basketball operations and an assistant coach at San Diego in a five-year span before becoming the athletic director at Wenatchee (Wash.) Valley College in July.
Levi Koenen is a former Rincon/University football player who had the older LaVetter as a social studies teacher before he graduated in 1991.
“Roland held you accountable but he also showed so much love and caring for everyone he came in contact with,” mentioned Koenen, who became a local high school administrator and assistant football coach.
“When he walked through the halls at Rincon, students went out of their way to say hello or give him a high five.”
Funeral arrangements are pending.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District.