Saying she was leaving with "my passion and my love for the sport" intact, longtime UCLA softball Coach Sue Enquist announced Tuesday that she would retire effective Jan. 1.
Enquist, a starting center fielder on the Bruins' first national championship team in 1978 who helped guide her alma mater to 10 national titles as a member of the coaching staff, will be succeeded by Kelly Inouye-Perez, a UCLA assistant coach for the last 13 years.
"I wanted to leave when I was still in love with all of it," said Enquist, who compiled an 887-175-1 record in 18 seasons as head coach or co-coach alongside Sharron Backus. "I didn't want to go out when we lost momentum or I lost steam."
Enquist, 49, will remain in the UCLA athletic department as a director of major gifts who assists with fundraising. She said she decided to retire after the Bruins lost to Northwestern in the semifinals of the College World Series but waited to announce her decision so officials could assemble a coaching staff.
Three-time Olympic gold medalist Lisa Fernandez will join Inouye-Perez's staff as a volunteer through fall practice before becoming a full-time assistant Jan. 1. Gina Vecchione will continue to serve as an assistant coaching the outfielders and hitters, and Olympic gold medalist Natasha Watley will join the staff as a volunteer assistant.
Enquist informed players of her decision Tuesday.
"Although I'm sad it's a shock for them, I never wanted to be that coach that had one foot in," she said. "I have so much passion for the game, I didn't want to run out of gas because I feel that's disrespectful to the game and to the student-athletes."
Inouye-Perez, 36, is a former three-time All-Pacific 10 Conference catcher at UCLA.