Arizona Softball

Candrea talks retirement, weekend ceremony and more on Eye on the Ball

Legendary former Arizona Softball Coach, Mike Candrea, stopped by to join Steve Rivera, and Jay Gonzales on the latest episode of Eye on the Ball on Fox Sports 1450. He talked retirement and his time at Arizona. What’s he up to? Over the weekend, the University of Arizona honored the eight-time national title winner with a ceremony and also named the field at Hillenbrand Stadium in his honor: Mike Candrea Field.

Mike Candrea

Jay Gonzales: “Tell us Mike, about that whole weekend, and the field being named after you. Was it a big surprise to you?”

Mike Candrea: “I really had no idea, because I knew we had the big celebration that evening, and I was going to the game, so I would say ‘hey’ at halftime, they’d show a video, and then I’d walk off the court.”

Steve Rivera: “What a great experience, and all the women that were there to honor you too, I mean you said it yourself, that this is what it’s all about.”

Mike Candrea: “Yeah, I said the other night it was like going through a living funeral.”

Jay Gonzales: “What were the feelings like during the whole weekend?”

Mike Candrea: “It was truly a celebration of my career, and to be able to do it with all the players, and friends, and coaches was great. It was very humbling to be honest, and to see everyone back in Tucson to be a part of it meant a lot. And, I think a lot of coaches should be able to end their career like that.”

Steve Rivera: “When did you know you really thought you had something great here?”

Mike Candrea: “I think probably in ’91, when we won our first championship. I felt that was the one moment that convinced me that this was the place, and that we could do something special things in the sport. The blessing for me has been watching the sport grow. I’ve been able to live through it. Going from the tough times when we had no fans, no field, and we had to pay for everything we own, to now seeing what Hillenbrand looks like today. It’s been amazing to watch that growth.”

Jay Gonzales: “Did you ever sense that it got even bigger than just your success at Arizona?”

Mike Candrea: “I think it was when I started getting involved with the national team, seeing what the teams around the world look like. I think it was just a blessing because one of the saddest moments for me was when we found out we were no longer on the Olympic program in 2008.”

Steve Rivera: “They really had no culture when you got here given the program was in its early stages. You were the culture, so how was that?”

Mike Candrea: “Culture is the key to longevity and the key to consistent success, and you can have a functional culture or a dysfunctional culture, and I think that’s a huge part of holding people accountable in athletics today.”

Jay Gonzales: “Have you ever ranked specific things in your career? Maybe not publicly, but privately?”

Mike Candrea: “I’ve never done that. It’s awfully hard to pick a favorite player, you would be crazy to do that because we had so many. I do think there’s been highlights to my career. I always go back to that ’91 team because they laid the foundation. They allowed us to recruit better athletes and elevate the program. Bill Hillenbrand coming in to build Hillenbrand stadium, I thought was a huge shot in the arm for the sport because we hadn’t had a facility like that for softball before. And finally coaching the 2004 Olympic Team. Coaching what I believe is the best team that ever played the game.”

Steve Rivera: “Why retire now? And could you have gone more?”

Mike Candrea: “I felt like the time was right. I wasn’t ready to navigate through the Transfer Portal and the NIL, that’s not why I coach. I’ve been grooming Caitlin Lowe for a while, and I feel very good about where she’ll take this program in the future. I also look forward to being able to support her, and if needed be a mentor to some other younger coaches in whatever sport.”

Steve Rivera: “How do you fill that competitive void?”

Mike Candrea: “Golf, I’ve got a passion for it, and I really want to get better at it.”

To listen to the entire interview, click on the link: https://www.iheart.com/podcast/1248-eye-on-the-ball-70788317/episode/eye-on-the-ball-tuesday-92348989/

Follow Jake on Twitter @jake_faigus

Jake Faigus is a Phoenix native. He is a senior at the University of Arizona majoring in journalism and minoring in sports management. He also has written for the University of Arizona student newspaper, The Daily Wildcat, as well as the Arizona Fansided blog called Zona Zealots.  

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