The final clue came right after the loss to Florida State on Saturday that eliminated the Wildcats from the Women’s College World Series.
University of Arizona head softball coach, Mike Candrea, picked up the line-up card and put in his bag before departing the UofA dugout. He wanted a souvenir from what he knew was the last game of his 36-year career directing the Pac-12 program.
Two days later, the hall of fame coach announced his retirement.
Candrea hadn’t shared his thoughts with the general public or the program’s many fans. But there had been much speculation about the possibility of his retirement for weeks prior to his announcement yesterday.
“When I arrived in 1985, I wanted to build a culture of excellence and compete consistently at the highest levels of Division I softball,” he said in a statement announcing his decision to leave behind the game that has been his entire life.
Over the span of almost four decades, Candrea’s Wildcat teams have made 24 trips to the Women’s College World Series, and came home with eight national championships — more than any other coach in NCAA softball history.
He said he also wanted consistency. How about 11 Pac-12 conference titles and 34 consecutive postseason appearances, posting a gaudy 178-65 postseason record?
And here’s a real testament to consistency: Mike Candrea has never had a losing season.
When Arizona hired Candrea back in 1985, the school knew it made a wise choice. Candrea was a local boy who began his softball coaching career at Central Arizona College where his teams won consecutive NJCAA national titles in the final two years of his four years at the junior college in Coolidge. That earned him two national Coach of the Year honors.
Candrea became the fastest coach in NCAA history, in any sport, to reach 1,600 wins.
Maybe Candrea, now 65, found a jumping-off point this season when he hit the ultimate goal for any college coach. He came into the 2021 season neck-and-neck with Michigan coach Carol Hutchins for most career wins. With his 41 wins this season (41-15), he has solidified his place at the top with 1,674 wins to become the sport’s all-time winningest coach.
The school has already named a replacement for the Tucson legend. Caitlin Lowe, who played for Candrea at Arizona and has spent the last decade as an assistant coach for the Wildcat program, will be introduced at a Wednesday press conference.
Candrea’s presser will be today at 10:30 a.m. at McKale Center, closed to the public but livestreamed and aired on the Pac-12 Network.
While he won’t be spending his days on the softball field any longer, the hall of famer isn’t going away. Arrangements have been made to have Candrea stay on in an advisory capacity and assist with coaching development for the athletic department.
(Photo: Arizona Athletics)