Wednesday’s guest on Eye on the Ball on KVOI (1030-AM) was former Arizona baseball coach Andy Lopez, whose love for Tucson is demonstrated by he and his wife Linda decided to retire here after coaching Pepperdine, Florida and the Wildcats to prominence.
He won the College World Series coaching Pepperdine and Arizona and finished third with Florida. He is one of only three coaches to lead three different programs to the College World Series and one of only two coaches, along with the late Augie Garrido, to win the College World Series with two different programs.
Lopez, who is almost seven years removed from quadruple-bypass open heart surgery, was 490–324–1 in his 14 years at Arizona and 1,177–742–7 overall in 33 years at Cal State Dominguez Hills, Pepperdine, Florida and Arizona.
One of the most interesting parts of the interview with Steve Rivera of AllSportsTucson.com and Jay Gonzales was Lopez mentioning two high-profile programs in the Pac-12 and SEC approached him about taking over their teams while he was at Arizona.
“I’m not going to lie, I had opportunities to leave here,” Lopez said. “I had an opportunity to go to back to UCLA (his alma mater). To be honest with you, I had an opportunity to go to Auburn. No, I really enjoyed being here. This is a good job.
“It’s a great town. It is a good college town but it has perspective. To me, that’s a pretty good balance. That really is.”
Lopez also touched on his son Michael,a former Arizona player, coaching at Howard Junior College in Big Spring, Texas, in his first season there, his daughter Kristi leading the famous Walden Grove High School dance team, sharing McKale Center with the likes of Lute Olson and Mike Candrea, the prosperous move to Hi Corbett and what he misses the most about being away from coaching for five years.
“I miss the camaraderie with the players,” Lopez said. “I was tough on my guys but I always promised I was going to treat them like men and get them ready for life.
“I used to have a saying with our guys: ‘When you’re having a really bad day, fellas, you know, your girlfriend broke up with you, you failed an English test, you’re one for your last 25 at the plate … When you’re having a really bad day, find a mirror, look at it and smile because fellas, guess what? It’s going to get worse. You’re going to have a mortgage to pay, you’re going to get older, you’re going to raise kids. Man, this is the best time of your life. Enjoy this. But know this: when you have bad days, it’s going to get worse now.’ I miss the camaraderie of telling young athletes, ‘Hey, this is what’s in store for you so you’ve got to be tough mentally. You have to be ready to go and be confident and work hard and get after it in life. Nothing’s free and nothing’s given to you.'”
Here is the interview:
Eye on the Ball can be also accessed live streamed online at KVOI.com.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.