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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    LaRose an exception in today’s world of coaches

    Arizona mens golf head coach Rick LaRose, right, talks  with former Wildcat and current PGA professional Jim   Furyk in October of 2007. LaRose enters 30th season as  head coach at Arizona and hopes to add to his legacy as  one of the top coaches in collegiate golf.
    Arizona men’s golf head coach Rick LaRose, right, talks with former Wildcat and current PGA professional Jim Furyk in October of 2007. LaRose enters 30th season as head coach at Arizona and hopes to add to his legacy as one of the top coaches in collegiate golf.

    In today’s sports world, coaches seem to come and go, constantly on the move from team to team and rarely able to call one place home for an extended period of time.

    Rick LaRose, however, is an exception to this: He is entering his 36th season as an Arizona coach and his 30th as the men’s golf head coach.

    After receiving his master’s degree at the UA, LaRose began his coaching tenure with the Wildcats as a water polo coach back in 1973 and led the program to four NCAA titles.

    This came after he enjoyed much success as a high school water polo coach in Southern California, where he coached teams that were never ranked below the top six nationally.

    “”Once I got here, I never left,”” he said.

    In 1978, an interesting situation arose. As a golfer, LaRose had high hopes of going professional and joining the PGA tour, but he eventually realized the competition was too much for him and decided not to go through with it. After years as an unsuccessful golf program, a head coaching job finally opened up on the UA men’s golf team. LaRose was offered the job in 1978 and the rest is history.

    “”When I took over, the team wasn’t that good,”” LaRose said. “”There were some good players, but they weren’t ranked nationally.””

    Immediately thereafter, LaRose began a new recruiting process that helped the team gain national recognition and become one of the best golf programs in the country.

    “”At the time I took over, we didn’t have national prominence,”” he said. “”I think we certainly got the team on the map.””

    LaRose is the only coach in history to win a national championship with both the men’s (1992) and women’s (1996) teams, making him one of the nation’s most prominent and well-known head coaches. In 25 of the past 30 seasons, he has led teams that have ranked in the top 20, which includes an eight-year streak where the team was ranked among the nation’s top 3.

    LaRose has had an extensive athletic career outside of golf, including playing professional fastpitch softball for the Tucson Rattlers of the American Professional League, Tucson’s first professional sports team to win a championship. He won the World Championship in 1976, played in three ISC World Championships and was selected as an ASA and ISC All-State Player.

    “”Baseball is definitely my favorite sport,”” LaRose said. “”There is just something special about the game that you can’t get anywhere else.””

    Athletes often have a difficult time adjusting to college when they first arrive, but LaRose is a player’s coach, and is able to ease the transition by working on both a personal and professional level with his teams.

    “”My relationship with (LaRose) has been great because he’s a real traditional guy, really old school and really fair,”” said sophomore player Beck Miller. “”He helps make things really easy when things are getting tough by breaking golf down to its simplest terms.””

    LaRose’s ability to relate to his players may be due to the fact that he was once a player himself. This has allowed him as a coach to understand what players are dealing with at certain times.

    “”Playing and competing really allows you to understand what players are going through,”” LaRose said. “”If you don’t play the game and understand their minds, then you won’t understand what they are going through.””

    LaRose has always taken academics very seriously as well, ensuring that the players know that there is a world out there beyond golf.

    “”Most athletes have dreams of becoming professional athletes,”” LaRose said. “”They need to realize they’re not always going to get there and that they need to get their degree. Overall, we have done very well with academics.””

    Assistant coach Andy Barnes, who played at Arizona under LaRose from 1995-1999, came back to join his alma mater and work with his former head coach.

    “”I have always had a good relationship with (LaRose),”” Barnes said.

    As much as LaRose has accomplished at Arizona, nothing seems more important to him than being able to have his team improve with every year.

    “”We want to keep getting better and make sure our kids have a great experience here,”” LaRose said, “”through both academics and athletics.””

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