On May 23, UCA baseball coach Allen Gum announced his retirement. Instead of searching outside of the school for a new head coach, UCA decided to stay within their own and promote associate coach Nick Harlan.
Harlan, who has been at UCA since 2013, is looking forward to the promotion, saying, “My wife, Lindsay, and I are very excited. We are grateful and honored to build on such a solid foundation. We love Conway and this University and have never wanted to leave.”
Born in Oroville, California, Harlan began his coaching career in 2002 as an assistant coach at Feather River Community College in Quincy, California where his team reached the California Final Four.
He became the head coach at York College in York, Nebraska in 2004 and remained there for nine seasons where his team won five conference championships and made the regional tournament five times.
Arriving at UCA, Harlan became the pitching and associate head coach. He came at just the right time as 2013 was the most successful year of the Gum era.
The Bears won the Southland Conference Tournament that year as a seven seed winning five consecutive elimination games. They advanced to the NCAA Regional Tournament where they fell to the Mississippi State Bulldogs in the title game. The team was just one win away from the Super Regional.
The Bears also set a school record of 42 wins in 2013.
Harlan has had success in his job as pitching coach with four pitchers taken in the MLB draft and one, Tyler Gray, named SLC Pitcher of the Year in 2018.
Harlan does not take all the credit though, as he speaks of Coach Gum having a great impact on him as a coach and as a man.
“I have grown tremendously by working side by side with a great man who has an aptitude for the game second to none. Every day with Coach Gum was an opportunity to learn. Coach Gum always took time to teach the game with passion and great effort regardless of who it was. I learned by watching and listening, and I will continue to as our relationship grows,” he said.
Since Harlan was formerly the associate head coach, he is not moving into an entirely different coaching position, but he still has the responsibility of being the leader of the team. He is not nervous, however, as he says he feels comfortable in his new role.
“The transition has been great,” Harlan said. “The administration and Coach Gum have been tremendous. The main thing is we make this transition good for the student-athletes. I am very excited to retain our coaching staff who love these players and we will continue to provide an environment they can grow in. This is a role that I am very comfortable in and passionate about.”
Harlan explained his goals as head coach, saying, “My goal is that we create good habits and that we develop a team identity of values that drive our decision making. If we know who we are, and we consistently live it, we will experience success on and off the field.”
Gum retires with a school record of 310 victories and 536 victories across his entire career. He reached the SLC Championship four times, including in 2019 where the Bears finished the season with a school record of 19 SLC wins.
“Coach Gum is at peace with this new chapter in life, and that is what is important to me,” Harlan said. “The Gums mean so much to my family, and we want to celebrate this new journey with them. His impact will always be celebrated here. I will always reach out to him for tips on baseball and life.”