How do you take the place of a legend? University of Arizona alumna Caitlin Lowe ’07 is about to find out.
She’s been tapped to succeed Mike Candrea, who announced his retirement in June 2021 after 36 record-setting years as Arizona’s softball coach. Candrea will remain on the coaching staff as a special adviser, but the program is now Lowe’s to lead.
Sarah Kezele ’11 caught up with three Arizona softball letter-winners on this year’s staff — Lowe, assistant coach Taryne Mowatt-McKinney ’08 and director of softball operations Stacy Iveson ’90 — ahead of the 2022 season.
What does it mean to get to lead this program with fellow Arizona alumni?
Lowe: Oh, it’s everything. It’s so exciting. That was always very important to Coach Candrea, to know that you’ve been through the system. You know what it means to be a Wildcat. You bleed red and blue. It’s literally something you believe in your core, being a Wildcat. So that part is easy for us — to spread the love of what it means to go to this university.
Mowatt-McKinney: (Lowe) had been preparing for this moment for years. She was so ready for it. And for me, I was just like, “OK, where do you need me to be?” I love it. Being an alum of any program is special. It’s a bond that you’ll always have. And then being an alum of Arizona softball, we’re very close. It’s a culture that’s been created around this program. We have each other’s backs.
Iveson: It’s a seamless transition. The longevity that Coach Candrea had with the program, nothing can be compared to it across the country. Handing it over to alumni keeps that going. It keeps that family feeling that we’ve always had here at Arizona softball.
What is your vision for the next era of Arizona softball?
Lowe: You’re going to see a lot of the foundation stay the same. I have a very deep respect for what this program has done, who has come through and what we’ve built. You’re going to see a lot of (Candrea’s) lessons through us, because we value them so much.
Mowatt-McKinney: The tradition is always going to be there. The foundation that he laid is always going to be there. But recruiting has changed, and it continues to evolve with social media. (Lowe) does a good job of knowing what this age group likes and mixing the tradition of Arizona softball with the glimmer of the new age of recruiting. And she genuinely cares about these recruits. Not just getting them to play softball here, but she connects with their parents, too.
Iveson: (Lowe) is very innovative yet understands and appreciates everything that Coach Candrea has brought into the program to make Arizona softball what it is. She’s a perfect fit in that she’s going to bring the past along but also push it into the future. She understands what that tradition of Arizona softball means and how it sets us apart from everybody else.
What will be Mike Candrea’s legacy with Arizona softball?
Lowe: This summer I was talking to a parent of a player in the Pac-12, and they said, “You know what, we just hate playing you guys because you’re so competitive and you’re so good. But at the same time, we love playing you because you’re classy. You respect the game, you play the game the right way, and you respect your opponents.” That’s something I want people to remember Arizona softball by. Yeah, we left it all on the field, but we played the game the right way and we respected it. You want to be that team that parents point to and say, “I want to send my daughter there.”
Mowatt-McKinney: A lot of people throw around the terms “GOAT” (greatest of all time) and “game-changer.” But that’s what he is to our sport. He changed the trajectory of our sport and how it has evolved over the years.
Iveson: I’ve heard people call him the godfather of softball. He has been a huge part of softball and the explosion that it’s had in the sports world. We used to joke and say that he’s a victim of his own success when he would have to coach against all the teams that are now so good across the country. It didn’t use to be that way. It used to be Arizona and UCLA and the Pac-12 and their dominance, and then that spread east to the SEC. Now it’s highly competitive and such a popular sport. He had a huge, huge part to play