It was a tough loss for head coach Andy Lopez when his Arizona Wildcats were beaten by Texas A&M in the Regional championship game after last season. The loss left his baseball team one game shy of 40 wins and one win from getting into the Super Regional for just the third time in school history.
But his most recent loss is perhaps even harder to take.
Lopez’s long-time assistant, Mark Wasikowski, has resigned his position at Arizona and, what’s worse, is taking a similar job at conference foe, Oregon.
The 40-year-old Wasikowski joined the Arizona staff the year after Lopez signed on as its new head coach in 2002. This would have been his 10th season on the bench, but their time together stretches back even farther because ‘Woz’ played for Lopez when he was the coach at Pepperdine and followed that up by serving as a volunteer assistant on Lopez’s staff at that school, and then followed his mentor to the University of Florida, where he was an assistant for three years.
Wasikowski was just a 19-year-old kid when his association with Lopez got its start. Their years together have been rewarding for both men, and for their schools.
During his coaching years, Wasikowski has developed a reputation as a savvy recruiter, and his talents in that area will be particularly missed in Tucson. The first four recruiting classes after he signed on with Arizona were among the Top 10 in the nation.
Together, the pair has restored the Arizona baseball program to a place of prominence on the national stage. They have taken the Cats to six post-season appearances, including a trip to the College World Series in 2004. Lopez is one of just three Division I coaches to take three different schools to the CWS.
In 2010, Lopez reached 1,000 career victories and he and Woz molded a very young team together to finish with a 34-24 record and a post-season berth in the Fort Worth Regional. Last year, they pushed the mark to 39-21 and lost in the championship game of the College Station Regional in Texas.
“I’m going to miss him like crazy, but life has its changes and its challenges,” Lopez commented in an article in the Arizona Daily Star.
But Wasikowski reportedly has had an interest in coaching at Oregon before this and now the Ducks have a new coach that came in several years ago and they built an impressive new ball park for their team.
Their offer came last week and the deal was concluded within days. And, just that quickly, life moves on for both coaches.
And Arizona’s first game with Oregon next season gets a lot more interesting.
(Photo: Arizona Athletics)