Mike Candrea just finalized one of the biggest recruiting coups for his University of Arizona softball program. But this ‘recruit’ will make her contributions on the bench rather than on the field.
Candrea, the Wildcats 26-year head coach, today announced the return of Stacy Iveson to the nationally-ranked program. Iveson made her mark as a player at Arizona and then went on to an incredibly successful career as a junior college head coach after putting in seven seasons as an assistant on Candrea’s staff in Tucson.
Last season, after Arizona failed to earn a berth in the Women’s College World Series for the first time in 22 years, a frustrated Candrea vowed to make some changes going forward.
“Nothing is going to stay the same. It’s our job to get better,” he said at the time.
He was referring to potential roster changes and the need for improved play from the bottom part of his line-up. No one expected a change on the bench.
But the resignation of his assistant, Teresa Wilson, just a couple of weeks ago created an opportunity. And Candrea made the most of it.
The 43-year-old Iveson has won four national titles as a JUCO head coach, two at Pima Community College (2002-07) and another pair during her four years as the head coach at Yavapai College in Prescott, in 2009 and 2011.
Her staff at Yavapai was twice named the NFCA/NJCAA D-I National Softball Staff of the Year and Iverson was also recognized this year by her fellow coaches by being named the Karen Sykes Coach of the Tournament at the national championships in St. George, Utah.
After pocketing two national crowns in the past three years, Iveson has to be on the radar of any number of Division I programs in need of a new coach who would bring energy and enthusiasm to their programs – and a proven track record of winning on the national stage.
But Candrea wasted no time in making his own pitch. When Wilson, who has been a very successful head coach at four different D-I schools before joining the Arizona staff three years ago, resigned her assistant’s role to pursue another head coaching gig, Candrea said he expected to have a replacement by the end of July.
July barely got past the long 4th weekend before Candrea sent up his own fireworks, letting the college softball world know he has taken a big step toward getting back to the World Series.
Iveson, an All-Pac 10 catcher during her college career at Arizona, worked with the Wildcat pitchers and catchers during her time as an assistant to Candrea from 1996-2001. During that time, she worked with some of the school’s best hurlers in the history of the program, including the incredible Jennie Finch, who posted a 30-0 record in 2001 under Iveson’s tutelage and went on to Olympic fame.
Last year at Yavapai, Iveson coached Estela Pinon, who she recruited from Sunnyside High School in Tucson and developed into arguably the best pitcher in junior college ball as a freshman. Pinon went 30-3 on the year and posted a 0.00 ERA during 22 innings on the mound in the national tournament.
And now she will get a chance to help Kenzie Fowler reach her potential at Arizona. The graduate of Canyon del Oro High School carried the Cats to the championship game of the Women’s College World Series in 2010 as a freshman and finished the season 38-9. This year, she was out six games with a concussion, but still posted an ERA of 1.87 and a 26-9 overall mark to earn All-American honors for the second straight year.
“Stacy will bring tremendous energy, expertise and a strong will to bring the most out of our athletes,” said Candrea in announcing the hire.
And that’s what he said needed to be done, right after that final out last season when Oklahoma beat his team in two straight games in the Super Regional. He said he needed more production from his entire line-up, not just those at the top of the order.
And Stacy Iveson is just the person to tackle that job. It’s the right hire at the right time.
But now Candrea needs to find a way to hold on to her as the other D-I programs that need a new head coach come calling year after year.
Making her the coach-in-waiting as Candrea’s eventual replacement would be the best way to do that.
(Photo: Andy Morales)