By Brian McCall
OKLAHOMA CITY - USA Softball has announced May 28 that UA Head Softball Coach Mike Candrea will be the head coach who will lead the women's national team program into the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. Candrea will also serve as head coach for the 2002 World Championships and the 2003 Pan American Games.
Candrea, currently the head coach at the University of Arizona, served as an assistant coach for both the gold medal-winning 1994 World Championship team and the USA team that won the 2001 Pan American Games Qualifier.
"I'm very excited and honored to be selected as the next Olympic coach," said Candrea. "I plan to work very hard to ensure we bring home gold medals from every competition."
Since arriving on the campus of the University of Arizona, Candrea has developed the Wildcat softball program into a perennial powerhouse. In his 17 years of coaching at Arizona, Candrea has won a whopping 926 games for an overall mark of 926-184 and a winning percentage of .834. Candrea's winning percentage currently ranks No. 2 among active college coaches and No. 2 all-time.
"Mike Candrea has proven that he has the ability to take a program to the highest level and maintain that success," said ASA Executive Director Ron Radigonda. "USA Softball is currently on top, and we need a coach with Mike's abilities to keep us there."
After taking over the Wildcat program, it took Candrea just two years to reach the NCAA Tournament and only three to reach his first NCAA Women's College World Series. Since debuting in 1988, Arizona has made 15 consecutive appearances in the Women's College World Series and has appeared in 10 of the 16 championship games.
In the 1990s alone, Candrea led Arizona to five NCAA Women's College World Series Championships (1992, 1994, 1995, 1997 and 1998) and a record of 523-75, a percentage of .875. During that span, five teams recorded 60-win seasons. In 2001, Arizona collected its sixth NCAA Championship, defeating UCLA 1-0.
"I've been blessed with a great career, but nothing can match wearing the USA across your chest and representing your country at the highest level," said Candrea.
As the new USA Softball head coach, Candrea will also serve on the Women's National Team Selection Committee that selects all of the women's national teams. USA Softball will be holding a team camp, May 30-June 2, in Chula Vista, CA, to select the team for upcoming ISF Women's World Championship, which will be held July 25-August 4 in Saskatoon, Canada.
Also In 2002, USA Softball will be competing in the U.S. Cup in Honolulu, HI (July 4-7), the Canada Cup in Surrey, B.C. (July 12-21), and the Japan Cup in Yokohama, Japan (August 27-September 1). At the Women's World Championship, the USA will be going for its fifth consecutive gold medal and the top seed at the 2004 Olympic Games.
USA Softball Women's National Teams have been among the most dominating of any sports team in history. The USA's ability to bring home the gold in World Championships, the Pan American Games and the Olympics is unchallenged, with a total of thirteen.
The USA Softball Women's National Team won the first Olympic gold medal in the sport's history during the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, GA, and defended its gold medal at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. The USA Softball Women's National Team, which has won the past four consecutive World Championships, the past four consecutive Pan Am Games and the past two Olympic gold medals, is the undisputed No. 1 team in the world. The Amateur Softball Association, founded in 1933, is the National Governing Body of Softball in the United States and a member of the United States Olympic Committee.
As the National Governing Body, the ASA is responsible for identifying, selecting and training male and female athletes to compete in World, Pan American and Olympic competitions. In addition to those duties, the ASA conducts the only recognized National Championship competitions in the United States. Finalization of all national team selections is pending the approval of the United States Olympic Committee.