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Mike Candrea Leaves Behind Remarkable Legacy

(Photo by Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

When Mike Candrea began coaching at Arizona in 1985, the majority of the players he coached during his career were not even born yet.

Candrea, who announced his retirement following Arizona’s 2021 trip to the Women’s College World Series, created a legacy with the Wildcats that includes not only several NCAA records, but also countless close-knit relationships he established with his players. He will be succeeded by Arizona softball legend and former assistant Caitlin Lowe as head coach.

Candrea is leaving behind a 1,674–433–2 record at Arizona, which includes the most wins by any NCAA softball coach as well as the fourth most wins by any coach of any sport in NCAA Division I history. He led the Wildcats to 10 Pac-12 championships, 24 WCWS appearances and eight national championships. Candrea also helped the U.S. to gold and silver Olympic medals, in 2004 and 2008, respectively.

Outside of the record book, Candrea made an immeasurable impact on many of his players, fellow coaches and the entire softball world in general.

“I think he has impacted every college coach, whether they know him or they don’t. He’s taken this game to a whole other level, not only collegiately, but internationally,” Florida State head coach Lonni Alameda said. “I think he is exactly who we all want to be. I think he’s who we want to be in the game, and off the field, too. A class act, and he has truly perfected the game on so many different levels.”

Following his retirement announcement, Candrea said he planned to serve as an advisor to the Arizona athletic department and will assist with coaching development.

While Candrea’s official coaching career has come to an end, there are many aspects of his life that will remain the same. He hopes that the relationships and friendships he has created with his players and colleagues will continue to flourish.

“Every athlete that I’ve ever been a part of gets a lifelong relationship, and as a coach, that’s what you hope,” Candrea said. “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.”

The unique relationship that Candrea has created with each of his players is something that he is confident will remain in place long after his retirement.

In his planner, Candrea has the birthday of every player he has ever coached written down. He makes it a priority to wish every player a happy birthday each morning, which has become a special tradition for him that allows him to keep in contact with his former players. Candrea has no doubt that this tradition will continue to brighten his mornings in the future.

Several of Candrea’s former players have attested to the impact he has had on their lives, even decades after he coached them on the softball field.

Former Arizona All-American Jenny Dalton-Hill said: “You are coached by him for four years, but he stays in your life forever.”

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