Arizona Baseball

Arizona’s Hale to coach in NCAA tournament for first time, draws from experience with Kindall

Chip Hale was a sophomore at Arizona in 1985 when the Wildcats returned to NCAA regional play for the first time since the late Jerry Kindall coached the program to a national title in 1980.

Arizona was sent in 1985 to the Fresno (Calif.) Regional, opening with BYU. Leading up to that game, Kindall told Jack Magruder of the Arizona Daily Star that while preparing for the postseason he mentioned to Hale and his players, including ace pitcher Joe Magrane, that “it’s a brand new start.”

“I know that sounds cliché-ish but any of the 38 teams can win the NCAA,” Kindall said (now the field is 64 teams). “Things happen so quickly and so out of pattern in the playoffs. Why? Because you are playing with people, not robots.”

Arizona went on to sweep through the Fresno Regional in three games before losing its two games in the College World Series that year. The following year, in 1986, the Wildcats won the CWS title with Hale one of the co-captains as a junior third baseman.

Jerry Kindall with Chip Hale after Arizona captured the 1986 College World Series title (Arizona Athletics photo)

“We’re groomed to be a playoff team,” Hale told Magruder after Arizona swept ASU to end the regular season in 1986. “We don’t peak too early.”

Hale’s NCAA tournament record playing for Kindall from 1985-87: 11-5 with a national championship.

Now 35 years after his Arizona career concluded, Hale’s in Kindall’s place, leading Arizona in his first experience as a head coach in the NCAA tournament.

What did he learn from Kindall in this situation?

“The main thing that Coach did with us — and I try to do everyday but I’ll try to do more here — is don’t do anything that you’re not capable of,” Hale said. “Sort of stay who you are, just play your game because the position players (and) the pitchers — whoever it is — who try to do more than they’re capable of doing … it’s very difficult. You put a lot of pressure on yourself.

“Just do your 1/9th, sort of, for our hitters.”

Hale has coached Arizona to a 37-23 record heading into its opening matchup of Friday’s Coral Gables (Fla.) Regional against Ole Miss (32-22) — a familiar foe for assistant coach Dave Lawn and the returning players from last year’s team coached by Jay Johnson. The Wildcats defeated Ole Miss in three games in the Tucson Super Regionals last year.

Hale mentioned the broad NCAA tournament experiences of Lawn and assistant Trip Couch will be beneficial for setting the Wildcats on the right path mentally as they prepare for their trip to the Coral Gables Regional, which also includes host Miami (39-18) and MAAC tournament champion Canisius (29-23).

Lawn has served as an assistant coach in 16 NCAA tournaments with Cal, USC and Arizona. He has four trips to the College World Series (1992 with Cal, 2001 with USC and 2016 and 2021 with Arizona). Couch will coach in his 15th NCAA tournament with previous experiences at Lousiana Lafayette, Houston, Texas and South Carolina.

Hale’s last NCAA postseason experience was playing in the 1987 Tempe Regional, losing both games there before embarking on his professional playing career.

“I’m excited. Obviously, I have good, experienced coaches here with Dave and Trip,” Hale said. “We’ll try to lead the way. As I said in the (Pac-12) conference tournament, my job now is to get them as prepared as we can and get them the scouting reports on the different teams we play and just sort of get out of the way.

“Let them play. Let them have fun. They’re going to be the ones hitting, throwing and running — so stay out of the way.”

Hale also reflected to when he played and the Wildcats learned of their NCAA tournament destination and first opponent and how that contrasts to today.

Arizona gathered at its clubhouse Monday morning at Hi Corbett Field (for what is called a “watch party” these days) when the NCAA tournament selection show took place on ESPN2.

“It was exciting for the guys, but obviously when I was in school, it wasn’t like that,” Hale said, shaking his head with a laugh. “We were just told where we were going by Coach Kindall. Someone called him.”


Hale said left fielder Chase Davis, Arizona’s cleanup hitter with a team-best 16 home runs, “looks like he’s going to be okay” after he injured his left shoulder when he banged up against the wall while making a catch in the first inning against Stanford on Saturday in the Pac-12 tournament at Scottsdale Stadium. Davis left the game the next inning. “Chase is swinging today, obviously nice and easy,” Hale said. “The pain is not as bad as we thought it was going to be today. Unless he takes another blow to it, there’s no really any worry of injuring it again.” Hale added that the coaches will observe Davis’ ability to throw from the outfield, hinting possibly that Davis might be used as a designated hitter. “We’ll see; he hasn’t thrown yet,” Hale said. “That’s probably the main thing but as long as we can have his bat in the lineup, that’s a good thing for us.” …

Hale believes Arizona’s four-game experience in the Pac-12 tournament will “really help” the Wildcats as they head into the NCAA tournament. “In the end, all of us (coaches) felt like the tournament prepared us way better for next week and getting us into regionals and maybe having to pitch your sixth, seventh and eighth guys to win a game,” he said. Arizona defeated Oregon and ASU and lost twice to eventual champion Stanford. …

Hale is not fretting about his team having to travel across the southern part of the country all the way to Coral Gables because they are accustomed to various trips throughout the year. “I think it’s great; we’ve been the road warriors this year,” Hale said. “This is probably the most this school has traveled in a long time. We’ve had a lot of road trips whether it’s busing to New Mexico State or flying out to Omaha to play Creighton, so we’re definitely battle tested on the road.” Arizona is 17-12 in games played on the road or at neutral sites this season. The Wildcats opened the season with three games at the Texas Rangers’ stadium in Arlington, sweeping Kansas State, Oklahoma and Texas Tech in three games. “We hope it’s prepared us well,” Hale said of the experiences on the road. “It looks like there’s going to be some rain, typical Miami weather. We’ll have to deal with maybe some rain showers during games or maybe some delays, stuff like that. There’s a 60 percent chance of rain. That will be different for us. We haven’t seen that in a while.” …

FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER! 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, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports,, 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. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District.

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