Was this the end for Mike Candrea? If it was, he’s not ready to say so just yet.
During the press conference following Arizona’s 4-3 loss to Florida State on Saturday afternoon, which eliminated the Wildcats from the Women’s College World Series, Candrea was asked about rumors that have circulated that he’s set to retire after 36 years in charge of the UA softball program.
Here’s what he had to say:
“At the end of every year, once you get to my age, you kind of evaluate life and things, and the only thing I can tell you is, when that day comes, I will do it on my own terms and make that decision. But right now, I’m not in any position. Right now I feel bad for these kids, and we’ve just busted our butts to try to keep playing. So I will let it all absorb and go from there.”
Candrea, 65, is the winningest coach in NCAA softball history with 1,674 victories. He’s led Arizona to eight national titles, most in the sport’s history, though its last came in 2007. The Wildcats have made 24 trips to the WCWS under Candrea, with 33 consecutive postseason appearances.
Asked about his players calling him a father figure, Candrea called it a “blessing” to have had the opportunity to coach them.
“Not often do you get to do something that you love to do and then surround yourself with people that you never want to see leave,” he said. “Every athlete that I’ve ever been a part of at Arizona, it’s a lifelong relationship, and as a coach, that’s what you hope. I hope that I treat them well. I hope I treat them like my daughter. And I hope that I can continue to be a part of their life.”
If Candrea decides to hang it up, one thing that will likely factor into his decision is whether the program is in good shape to go on without him.
“I told the kids, the one thing that I realized in my career, you’re really only the gatekeeper at the end of the day, and I just hope that this program is stable,” he said. “I’ve tried to do the right things the right way, and I hope that it has an impact and influence on the kids that I coach. Because I think the one thing that I take very seriously is being a mentor and being a role model. I always tell them everything I do, I always think about how it’s going to affect them for all these years. So I’m honored and blessed that I’ve been able to coach so many great young women.”