If there is anybody who knows what it means to be an Arizona Wildcat, it’s Mike Candrea.
The Hall of Fame coach has been at the University of Arizona for 32 years, making him (by far) the school’s longest tenured coach.
On top of that, he’s at the helm of arguably the school’s most successful program, winning eight national championships and over 1,500 games in those 32 years.
The weird part? He’s actually a Sun Devil — or at least used to be.
Candrea earned both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree at ASU in the 1970s, roughly a decade before he took over the reigns of Arizona softball.
“It’s honestly weird, because even though I knew he was an alum there, I never really thought of him being an ASU person,” said UA pitcher Taylor McQuillin.
UA pitcher Danielle O’Toole, who transferred from San Diego State, was just as surprised to hear about Candrea’s past as anybody.
“I was like ‘really?’” she said. “But it makes sense. He grew up in that area, so it’s not a big deal and he never talks about it.”
He never talks about it because, as UA and ASU gear up to face each other this weekend, it’s clear Candrea is not an “ASU person”, even if his degrees say otherwise.
“Every time we have conversations (about ASU), he’s just like, ‘shove it up their butt.’ All this kind of stuff,” McQuillin said. “He’s getting us pumped up just like we’re trying to get ourselves pumped up, so it’s really weird.”
Added UA left fielder Mandie Perez: “I think he put that on the back burner and he’s all about being at the UofA, but I think it’s surprising to think about. It’s kinda funny to say that he has some stuff from ASU. But I don’t really think it’s as big of a deal as I thought it would be. I think it’s more funny than anything.”
Now that Candrea has been at Arizona for more than three decades, rarely, if ever, does he think about his ASU ties.
“It’s another Pac-12 team. I mean, I’ve been around long enough to have a rivalry with everyone,” he said.
You sure as heck won’t find Candrea rooting for ASU softball, but what about its other teams? Does he have any love for his alma mater?
“No, absolutely not,” he said. “If you cut my veins now, they’d be red and blue. I’m way beyond that.”
As McQuillin put it, Candrea has “found his way.”
“I think he’s always been an Arizona person at heart,” she said. “But he just had the wrong school from the start.”
You can follow this author on Twitter at @RKelapire