Ironwood Ridge hires legendary coach Rich Alday to take over softball programby Andy Morales on Sep. 03, 2013, under Sports
Where does one begin when they try to sum up the accomplishments of a former Tucson High All-State quarterback, state champion, first ever coach at Pima, five junior college conference titles, second place national finish, winningest coach at New Mexico, three-time coach of the year, assistant Olympic coach twice over, small-school baseball coach, umpire and, now, the softball coach of one of the biggest high school programs in Arizona?
All you have to do is type “Rich Alday” on a computer screen and everything else will take care of itself.
A native Tucsonan, Rich was a baseball catcher and quarterback at Tucson High where he was recruited by Frank Sancet to come to play at the University of Arizona. After a year at Arizona, Rich transferred to Emporia State in Kansas.
He came home and became Pima’s first baseball coach and took the Aztecs to the 1985 World Series and earned 496 victories in 16 years before he moved on to New Mexico where he won 515 more games in 18 years before retiring in 2007.
He was a finalist for Arizona’s job in 1996 with eventual hire Jerry Stitt. (Andy Lopez was one of the unofficial finalists that year but he had just signed a four-year contract at Florida).
Rich was an assistant coach for the USA Olympic Teams in 1988 and 1996.
He has been giving back by umpiring and refereeing football games since he stepped down from his more recent stint as the athletic director/baseball coach at San Miguel High School.
Rich told me his mentor was none other than his JV coach at Tucson High, another legend in Jim Wing, but his biggest success on the Badger athletic fields, however, came as the All-State quarterback of the 1965 State Championship team under John Mallamo.
It’s hard to come across a generation that has not been touched by Rich in some way. He coached former Arizona softball player Cyndi Duran’s father (Armando) at Pima and that extensive list includes current Ironwood Ridge standout golfer Ruben Ruiz’s father (Ruben).
Speaking of Ironwood Ridge, Randy Anway retired from the softball coaching position after taking the Nighthawks to three state title games in a five-year span. Anway was able to put Ironwood Ridge on the map and his retirement made that job one of the biggest openings in the state.
Knowing a list of the unofficial and official candidates, I can say the administration had a very difficult choice and they went with a home-run hire in Rich Alday.
How can you not hire him?
I met up with Rich at our local grocery store this past weekend and he was upbeat and excited to get back in the dugout. I watched as he was greeted by several people who recognized him in the store and I wondered if he ever got a chance to shop in peace but then I saw his smile with each new greeting and I realized this is his peace.
Jack Howell, Gil Heredia and George Arias played for Alday at Pima. Arias had some great things to say about Alday’s hiring.
“I played golf with him a few weeks a ago and he told me he had applied,” said Arias. “His résumé speaks for itself but Coach Alday is a player’s coach.
“He trusts his players and anytime you do that, you have them eating out of your hand. The only thing that might get Coach upset would be lack of effort because the game of base baseball is full of disappointments – that’s the nature of the game. You aren’t going to succeed 70% of the time but Alday is right there with you”
Rich also helps Arias out with his Tucson Baseball and Softball Academy housed at Hi Corbett, mainly with the older baseball groups. “When I told him about what we were trying to do with stressing education and fundamentals he was all in,” added Arias.
“He sets an example for all the young athletes to look up to. We are so proud and supportive of him and wish him the best at Ironwood Ridge. The athletic director made a great hire.”
Due to obvious hiring rules, the school was unable to comment on the hiring until the Governing Board approves the hire. Pima retired his number 26 jersey in 2010…I bet Ironwood Ridge will have one waiting for him.
Cyndi Duran won a high school state championship at Flowing Wells under Armando Quiroz, a junior college national title under Stacy Iveson and an NCAA championship under Mike Candrea.