April 30, 2010
TUCSON, Ariz. - University of Arizona baseball head coach Andy Lopez is closing in on one of the game's greatest milestones - 1,000 career coaching victories.
Lopez, who is in his ninth season at Arizona, is currently three wins shy of the illustrious mark that has only been achieved by 45 other coaches. The No. 19 Wildcats open a three-game series at USC this evening at Dedeaux Field in Los Angeles. A series sweep would give Lopez his 1,000th win on Sunday; otherwise, he will have four chances next week as Arizona takes on Arizona State in a single game in Tempe on May 4 and then hosts Cal State Bakersfield May 7-9.
After stints at Cal State Dominguez Hills, Pepperdine - where he led the Waves to the 1992 national title - and Florida, Lopez arrived at Arizona following the 2001 season. He quickly put the program, which had won three national titles in the 1970-80s, back amongst the nation's elite.
Just three seasons into his tenure at Arizona, Lopez guided the Wildcats to their first College World Series appearance (2004) since 1986, the first regional title since 1986, the first-ever super regional title and to consecutive postseason births for the first time since 1992-93. In 2007-08, Lopez coached a pair of highly talented teams to consecutive 40-win seasons, the first time the program had done so since 1985-86.
In 2010, Lopez again has the Wildcats in contention for the postseason with a consensus top-20 team. Arizona's current 28-11 record has pushed Lopez's career tally to 997-613-7.
Player development is an important part of the program under Lopez and his staff. A total of 105 players coached by Lopez have signed professional contracts, including an Arizona record seven that were drafted in the first 12 rounds in 2005 and 11 total players in the 2002 MLB Draft and again in 2008. In eight years at UA, he has had four players selected in the first round and a total of 36 players picked by Major League teams, including 26 that had never been drafted before.
A total of 32 Lopez coached players have garnered All-America honors, 68 have been named all-conference and in 1998, while at Florida, he helped guide Brad Wilkerson to national player of the year honors and the Golden Spikes Award.
He personally has been recognized nationally as the coach of the year twice and has won coach of the year honors eight times in three different conferences.
Lopez came to the Old Pueblo from the University of Florida, where he spent seven seasons turning the Gators into a top 25 program and a national championship contender. His .636 winning percentage at UF was third-best for any coach in Florida school history that spent five or more seasons in the top spot.
While in Gainesville, he led the Gators to a 278-159-1 (.636) overall record, two Southeastern Conference championships, five NCAA tournament berths and two College World Series appearances during his tenure.
He averaged 40 wins a season during his stay in the Swamp, while doubling, from two to four, the UF program's number of trips to the College World Series. The 1996 team, which won a school record 50 games, fell just two wins shy of the national championship title game. The 1996 exploits garnered Lopez Collegiate Baseball National Coach-of-the-Year honors, the second such recognition of his coaching career. While at Florida, his student-athletes also performed in the classroom as well, his players were tabbed with SEC academic honors 43 times.
He began his collegiate coaching career at Cal State-Dominguez Hills in 1983. He turned the program at CSUDH first into a California Collegiate Athletics Association championship team and then into a Division II national championship contender. His teams won league titles in 1986 and `87, and the latter went on to the Division II College World Series. Three different times he was named the conference coach of the year at Dominguez Hills and his 168-152-2 (.525) record in six seasons caught the eye of Southern California neighbor Pepperdine.
Pepperdine hired Lopez to lead the baseball team in 1989 and he began to make waves in Malibu, Calif., right from the start. Over six seasons he tallied a record of 241-107-3 (.691), his best winning percentage at a school in his career. His first team went 41-19-1 and made the first of four NCAA postseason appearances during his stay. In 1991 the Waves finished the season 41-17-1 and exited postseason play early, but laid a foundation on which the 1992 team could build upon.
The 1992 season culminated in Pepperdine's first and only national championship in school history. Thought by many to be too small of a school to compete nationally in baseball, Lopez and his team shocked the collegiate baseball world by going 48-11-1, including 8-1 in the postseason. The 3-2 title game victory over Cal-State Fullerton in Omaha earned Lopez consensus National Coach of the Year honors by Collegiate Baseball and Baseball America.
Lopez got into collegiate baseball as a player at Los Angeles Harbor Community College where he played two season before transferring to Pac-10 rival UCLA. A 1975 graduate of UCLA, Lopez was the team captain and starting shortstop for the `75 Bruin baseball team. He was drafted in the ninth round by Detroit Tigers in the amateur draft, but opted to complete his studies in Westwood and begin his coaching career instead of turning pro. He was inducted into UCLA's Baseball Hall of Fame in 1994.
Upon completion of his studies at UCLA, he got his first coaching job at his junior college alma mater, L.A. Harbor Community College. He spent two seasons as an assistant coach there before moving on to the high school coaching ranks at Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach, Calif. As head coach, he led Mira Costa to a 108-48 (.692) record over five seasons before being hired at CSU Dominguez Hills.
Lopez's Collegiate Coaching Record
* Denotes conference champions
^ Division II College World Series
% Division I College World Series
! College World Series champions