Candrea retires as U.S. softball coach following Olympics

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Mike Candrea, the Arizona softball coach whose bid to lead the United States to a second gold medal ended with a loss to Japan in the Beijing title game, stepped down Wednesday as coach of the national team.

Candrea had guided the Americans since 2002 and went 17-1 in Olympic play. The only defeat was a 3-1 loss to Japan in the gold medal game last week.

"It has been the highest honor to coach for the United States," Candrea said. "I wouldn't trade it for a minute. The experiences I have had through USA Softball and more importantly the relationships I have made with athletes and staff are wonderful.

"It's been a tremendous ride and blessing to be a part of all of this. But I am ready to settle down and begin my life at home and allow someone else this honor."

The United States won the first three Olympics after the sport was added for the 1996 Atlanta Games. The sport isn't on the program for 2112 London Olympics.

Candrea has led Arizona to eight NCAA titles.

Candrea said he would stay involved with USA Softball's education and development programs, including a 10-day trip to Europe next month to help grow the sport in perhaps the most critical region for the International Olympic Committee to reinstate it. The IOC will vote next year on whether to softball will be part of the 2016 Games.

"I am anxious to continue my involvement to help get this sport back in the Olympic Games," Candrea said. "We have 14 months to show the IOC that the sport of softball belongs at the Olympic level. I plan to assist in the education process for both athletes and coaches at all levels in order to keep the pipeline alive and healthy."