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Sean Rooks was a college basketball star for the Arizona Wildcats. He then went on and played 12 seasons in the NBA with multiple teams, including the Dallas Mavericks, LA Lakers, Clippers, and Orlando Magic. In retirement, Rooks transitioned into the role of a coach. He steadily made his way up the ranks. In 2016, he interviewed for a coaching position with the New York Knicks. Hours later, he tragically died. 

Sean Rooks stars at Arizona

Sean Rooks arrived at the University of Arizona in 1988. He saw limited action that first season but was there as the team made a run through the NCAA Tournament, losing in the finals to UNLV, 68-67. Head coach Lute Olson called on Rooks much more in the seasons that followed.  

During Rooks’ sophomore campaign, his minutes increased as did his production. He finished the season averaging 12.7 points and 4.9 rebounds per contest. He put up similar numbers his junior season, averaging 11.9 points and 3.7 rebounds a game.

In 1991-92, Sean Rooks’ senior year, he had his best season, posting 16.3 points and grabbing 6.9 rebounds per game. He earned Pac-10 MVP honors. 

Sean Rooks plays and coaches in NBA

The Dallas Mavericks selected Sean Rooks in the second round with the 30th overall pick of the 1992 NBA Draft. Rooks was named a starter early on in his rookie season. Interestingly, it would turn out to be the best season of his 12-year career, as he finished the season averaging 13.5 points and 7.4 rebounds per contest.

Rooks played another season in Dallas before becoming an NBA journeyman over the next decade. He made stops with six different teams, including the LA Lakers and Clippers, New Orleans Hornets, and Orlando Magic. Rooks retired after playing with the Magic in 2003-04. 

A couple of years later, Sean Rooks moved into coaching with the NBA Developmental League. In 2012, he joined the Phoenix Suns staff. Similar to his playing days, Rooks bounced around with different coaching staffs. In 2014, he landed with the Philadelphia 76ers. 

His tragic death hours after interviewing for coaching job

Sean Rooks coached with the 76ers for a couple of seasons. On June 7, 2016, Rooks was looking to join the New York Knicks and interviewed for a job with team president Phil Jackson. Hours later, Rooks collapsed and died while at dinner inside a Philadelphia restaurant. 

His tragic death stunned the basketball world and those who knew him. Many players, coaches, and even a team owner, posted their responses on Twitter. 

“RIP Sean Rooks. You made plane rides my first year fun,” Mavericks owner Mark Cuban wrote. “Can’t believe we talked just a few weeks ago. You will be missed Wookie.” 

“My heart goes out to the family of Sean Rooks,” Grant Hill posted. “Today the entire NBA family mourns the loss of a great man… #RIP Big Fella!!”

Sean Rooks’ official cause of death was heart disease. He was just 46 years old.

Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference


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