By Mickey Winfield: PNT staff writer
Less than an hour after the Zias softball team split a doubleheader Saturday at Zia Softball Field, second-year coach Armando Quiroz announced that he’s coached his last game at Eastern New Mexico University.
Quiroz said he has been hired as the head softball coach for Pima (Ariz.) Community College, a job he said he was offered last week.
He said he didn’t apply for the job.
“This is the hardest thing in the world for me to do. It hurts, it really does,” said Quiroz, whose wife and son lives in Pima. “We got them together in the locker room this week. It was very emotional and very difficult. I think I would rather have fought a bear than talk to them about this but I had to do it. There were a lot of tears and it started with me.”
“We all just kind of broke down and started crying,” freshman pitcher Kristen Cruickshank said. “It sucks to have a coach leave that was that great. He did so much for the school and for all the girls. I’m really sad to see him go,”
Quiroz, 57, led the Zias to a record of 46-37 in his two seasons at Portales, including a 13-16 mark this season.
Quiroz also revealed that softball is not the only thing on his mind.
“My priority is my family,” Quiroz said. “My wife is home and my son is in the Marines and he leaves for Iraq May 15 for war, and my wife is a wreck, and I just didn’t want her to go through this alone.”
Cruickshank is one of eight Arizona players Quiroz recruited and says she has no intention of transferring, but would not rule it out.
“As of now, I haven’t really thought about it because (the news) has just hit us so fast,” Cruickshank said. “I’d play for him any day. I’m not stuck with this team but this is kind of where my home is right now and I love it here.”
“I brought (many of our players) here and they are here because of my efforts to get them here,” Quiroz said. “I do have this huge guilt feeling.”
The sudden resignation caught many by surprise but ENMU athletic director Mike Maguire said the program will move forward.
“He expressed to me that he needs to be with his wife at this time and we want to wish him well with that,” Maguire said. “With all the transitions we’ve had in the past few years in the softball program it makes it kind of tough, but we’ve got a plan.”
Quiroz was the Zias fifth head coach since the program program in 1999.
According to Maguire, graduate assistant and ENMU Alumni Amber Daniels will lead the Zias on an interim basis this season starting with the Zias next game Tuesday at College of the Southwest.