Larry and Alana LaRock are devoted to the Gonzaga Bulldogs.
So much so, their license plate reads “ZZZAGS”.
“Whenever I see a Gonzaga sweatshirt or T-shirt I go up and I go ‘Go Zags,’ ” Alana said.
The couple had not missed a home Gonzaga game at the McCarthey Athletic Center until this year – only because the West Coast Conference adopted a new schedule format where teams could play a split weekend schedule with one home game and a road game.
But what truly defines the LaRocks as the ultimate Gonzaga fans?
The LaRocks reside in Butte and regularly make the five-hour drive to Spokane so they can catch the Zags in action.
Driving from Butte to Spokane is no easy task – especially in the winter.
Lookout Pass, located at the border of Montana and Idaho, is susceptible to flooding, rock slides, and avalanches.
One winter, an avalanche didn’t prevent the LaRocks from watching the Zags.
At Mile Marker 22 on the Montana side of Lookout Pass, a snow slide blocked the road and slowed travel. Determined to watch the Bulldogs, the LaRocks turned around and took an alternate route.
The LaRocks took two-lane highways from St. Regis to Sandpoint. It took an extra three hours for them to reach Spokane.
“We are skiers,” Alana said. “All the years that we have been skiing when it says emergency travel only, that’s when the powder is good.”
Snowy conditions don’t stop the LaRocks, but they do check the weather and would consider driving over a day early if the conditions would be too severe.
The LaRocks are accustomed to inclement weather. “In Butte we can get (snow) any month out of the year,” Alana said.
The last few years they have been lucky and dodged the worst winter storms. However, Alana could remember one year that they saw a bad accident almost every drive.
The LaRocks’ connections to Gonzaga extend back to when Alana attended Kinman Business University in Spokane. Alana also had a lot of friends from Butte who were students at Gonzaga.
“We always say it was the Kinman girls who typed up the papers for the guys at Gonzaga – there were a lot of Butte kids,” she said.
Larry and Alana have been coming to Spokane for about 25 years to see the Best of Broadway productions.
While in Spokane, the LaRocks would walk around campus along with attending church at St. Aloysius at Gonzaga.
The LaRocks’ daughter, Lani, was a sophomore at Gonzaga during the Zags’ run to the Elite Eight in 1999.
Before Gonzaga’s trip to the Elite Eight, Alana said they got into the games – then played at the Martin Center – with no problem.
Larry and Alana signed up for season tickets before Gonzaga’s Cinderella season.
“A lady by the name of Grace that worked in the (season ticket) office called me and she said ‘Alana, do you really want season tickets? You know, you can’t make all of the games,’ and then ended the conversation by (saying) ‘You will always be able to get in to a Gonzaga basketball game,’ ” Alana said.
The LaRocks’ persistence and foresight to purchase season tickets has definitely paid off, as single game tickets have been increasingly hard to find as the Zags continue to rack up NCAA Tournament bids.
In Butte, it is well known throughout the historic mining town that the LaRocks are huge Gonzaga supporters.
Most people in Butte support the Montana Grizzlies from Missoula, and Alana says she will rub in the Zags’ success to Griz fans every so often.
Alana also does not appreciate any nonbelievers in the Bulldogs.
The host of a Butte radio station said Gonzaga didn’t deserve to be No. 1 in 2013 when the Zags reached the top spot in the polls for the first time in program history.
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