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Mike Candrea on coaching the Wildcats: "It was a dream come true."

Posted at 10:39 PM, Jun 08, 2021

TUCSON, Arizona — "It really has turned out to be a dream come true," said now former Arizona head coach Mike Candrea.

His retirement news conference at McKale Center was partly reflective.

"I do not think I was the first choice for this job."

It was partly humorous.

"I love what our team did for this program this year. A 3.5 GPA. I said I'd always take a 2.8 and a national championship. But, we’re celebrating a 3.5!"

And, it was partly emotional when Candrea referred to this year’s seniors.

"What a special group."

In fact, the outgoing seniors were why Candrea didn’t retire as he originally planned following the 2020 season. He returned for their extra year of eligibility following the COVID-19 cancellation of the 2020 season.

Several former players were also in attendance, such as Callisto Balko, a former CDO high school star, as well as three-time All American Laura Espinoza.

"The special part for me is (him) taking a chance on a kid from a place not too many come out of," said Espinoza, who is from Wilmington, California. "He stayed through four years for me. He believed in me, mentored me. I owe him so much."

"I’m the gatekeeper and I’m blessed to be able to keep the gates open for the last 37 years and open them up for Caitlin Lowe to move into the next era."

Wednesday, Lowe, who has been the associate head coach, will be introduced as the seventh head coach in program history. Candrea will continue to serve in an advisory role.