Citing health concerns, Andy Lopez, the longtime head baseball coach for the University of Arizona, announced his retirement on Monday, ending a 33-year career that included two national championships, the last one with Arizona in 2012.
Lopez, 61, who had heart surgery in 2013, won three national coach of the year awards and accumulated 1,174 wins in his career. At a news conference on Monday, he said that he could no longer manage the high stress levels on the field.
“God, it hurts me to say this, but I need to get away from games.”
— Andy Lopez
Lopez helped turn around the University of Arizona baseball program in his 14 years, leading the team to its fourth national championship in 2012, its first since 1986. He ranks 29th in wins among active and former Division I baseball coaches.
“For us, he’s one of the best we’ve ever had in Arizona for all of our sports,” the university’s athletic director, Greg Byrne, said at the news conference. “And he’s one of the best that’s ever coached the game of college baseball. More importantly, he’s been a better husband, father and mentor.”
Lopez started coaching college baseball in 1983 at California State University, Dominguez Hills, where he won the Division II College World Series in 1987. His success led him to Pepperdine in 1989, and he coached the team to its first national championship in 1992. He then spent seven years at the University of Florida, making two appearances at the College World Series.
In 1997, Lopez and his wife, Linda, started to think about where they would like to retire, and she suggested Tucson. He said he was hesitant about it at first. But after 14 seasons at Arizona, Lopez said he has “slowly come to acknowledge” that he loves Tucson.
On social media, the outpouring of praise and congratulations to Lopez was immediate.
“I have never enjoyed covering any coach as much as Lopez,” Daniel Berk, who covers the team for The Arizona Daily Star, posted on Twitter. “Even as a beat writer, he taught you plenty about life. Best of luck to him.”
Adam Housley, a Fox News reporter who played for Lopez at Pepperdine, said in a tweet that the coach taught him “life’s most important lessons.”
But at his news conference Monday, Lopez was the one who was thankful.
“I’ve been really blessed to be around good coaches and good players,” Lopez said. “I’m forever thankful for that.”
Lopez said part of him wanted to battle through more games, hoping to help fix the team after a disappointing close to this season, when the team finished 31-24. But after two recent health scares and discussions with his wife, he said, he realized he did not “have the energy level anymore.”
He recounted one of those health scares on Monday, when he said he felt heart pain on a flight after a game this season.
“I said to myself, ‘God, I hope there’s a doctor on this flight,’ ” he said.
Lopez said he looked forward to spending more time with his family and reading the Bible. And he looked back at the “unbelievable experiences” he has had during his career, including his two national championships — becoming the second coach to lead two different baseball teams to national titles.
“Hey, what a great life,” he said.