May 23, 2012
The head coaching career of Arizona's Rick LaRose came to a close May 19 at the NCAA Southwest Regional in Norman, Okla.
Initially hired as the men's head water polo coach and assistant swim coach in 1973, LaRose guided the water polo program to four NCAA regional championships and three fifth-place finishes at the NCAA Championships. His teams were never ranked out of the top six nationally and produced five All-Americans and one United States Olympian. LaRose compiled a 154-37-2 (.803) record as the UA water polo head coach.
He took over the men's golf head coaching duties in 1978-79, and quickly established Arizona golf as one of the finest college golf programs in the country, guiding the men's squad to the 1992 NCAA title. LaRose began double-duty as the head coach for both the Arizona men's and women's programs (1996-98, 2010) and led the women to the 1996 NCAA title. He is the only coach in NCAA history to win both a men's (1992) and women's (1996) national championship.
His golf teams were ranked in the top 20 in 26 of those 34 seasons, including a string of eight consecutive years that the Cats were ranked in the top three nationally - 13 times at No. 1.
His Wildcats were at their best when it mattered most, making 24 trips to the NCAA postseason since 1987, including 21 consecutive berths in the NCAA Championships (1987-2007). Since the NCAA regional format was instituted in 1989, UA earned 23 berths in those 24 seasons.
LaRose's teams won two NCAA titles, seven NCAA regional championships, four Pac-10 crowns and three Rolex Match Play titles. He is also the only one to produce both a men's and women's Rolex Match Play and Pac-10 championship teams. His finishes at the NCAAs not only include the 1992 men's and 1996 women's titles, but six third-place, two fifth-place and two sixth-place efforts.
Since 1978, LaRose's golf teams won 62 men's tournaments and 19 women's tourneys. He coached seven national players of the year, 11 Pac-10 Players of the Year, 68 All-Americans, 109 all-Pac-10 Conference performers, two United States Amateur winners (and three runner-ups), five United States Walker Cup players, a pair of Ryder Cup golfers, a U.S. President's Cup performer and three United States Publinx champions.
Eighteen of his pupils also have represented the U.S. in international collegiate competition.
LaRose was inducted into the Golf Coaches Association of America Hall of Fame on Jan. 22, 2003, and the Arizona Golf Hall of Fame on Nov. 23, 2009.
Last season, he surpassed the 6,000-win plateau in head-to-head competition.
What can you say about a coach who has won all there is to win with a legacy that stretches over four decades? Here are a few thoughts from several of LaRose's former players:
Larry Silveira, 1984-88
"I played for Rick LaRose in 1985, `86, `87, and `88, and he was definitely a great coach for us. I'm still in Arizona, and get to see him from time to time. Coach LaRose was definitely a big self-motivator, and during my time at Arizona he really made me that way, which has helped me even after I moved on from the team."
Rob McIver, 1990-93
"Coach LaRose was a great influence on me at Arizona. Being part of the 1992 national championship team was a tremendous experience. He assembled a great squad, and was great at putting us together in the right place at the right time. He's always been a very results-oriented guy, and in the professional world, it's all about results and how you get them. It's about what you do going forward, not what you did in the past."
David Berganio, 1989-93
"Coach LaRose was really the only guy to take a chance on me. I was a walk-on out of Los Angeles with no background with the AJGA because I was strapped financially. There were so many schools that wouldn't take a chance on me, but he did. He let me be myself, which turned out to be a first-team All American. I couldn't see myself playing for any other coach than LaRose. He didn't care that we were a group of guys with funky golf swings. During the 1991-93 seasons, we had a really strong team, and coach knew how to make all of our personalities jell so we could be successful."
Arizona Coaching Longevity Leaders
41 Fred A. Enke, 1925-66 (men's basketball, men's golf) 39 Rick LaRose, 1973-2012 (men's water polo, men's golf, women's golf) 36 J.F. "Pop" McKale, 1914-49 (football, baseball, men's basketball) 35 Dave Murray, 1968-2002 (cross country/track & field) 27 Mike Candrea, 1986-present (softball) 24 Lute Olson, 1983-2007 (men's basketball) 24 Jerry Kindall, 1973-96 (baseball) 23 Frank Sancet, 1950-72 (baseball) 22 Frank Busch, 1989-2011 (swimming and diving)