Jason Harvey’s success as the baseball coach at Bangor’s Husson University doesn’t surprise John Bapst High School baseball coach Dave Gonyar.
Gonyar was Harvey’s baseball and basketball coach at Bucksport High School.
“From the first time I met him, I knew he had all the makings of a great coach. He had great leadership skills even as a freshman,” recalled Gonyar. “Just his demeanor around sports was as impressive as I had ever seen from a high school athlete. He was a competitor. He competed every day even in practice … or even when I had him in [physical education] class during intramurals.”
Former Husson athletic director Bob Reasso said Harvey is an exceptional coach.
“He can coach on any level, Division I, II or III,” Reasso said. “He has a tremendous amount of integrity. He does things the right way. He reads talent very well and has good instincts.”
Now starting his seventh season at the helm after taking over when the legendary John Winkin suffered a paralyzing stroke, Harvey has compiled a 146-101 record and guided his Eagles to three North Atlantic Conference championships and two NCAA Division III Tournament appearances. Husson is 74-30 in NAC regular season play.
His 2009 team won two NCAA Tournament games for the first two NCAA wins in program history.
Harvey’s coaching career followed a remarkable athletic career in high school and college. He played basketball, baseball and golf at Husson and spent a year in between as the starting shortstop at the University of Maine.
He was inducted into the Husson Sports Hall of Fame in 2012 with his wife, Kristin (nee Pelletier), who was an exceptional soccer player.
Harvey was a two-time All-NAC selection in both basketball and baseball.
Ted Shipley knows Harvey’s resume well.
Shipley is the head baseball coach at Castleton State (Vt.) and he also had been the men’s basketball coach.
“When he was a player, he killed me in both sports,” said Shipley. “He is as fine a competitor as we’ve ever played against.”
That has transferred over to his coaching.
“It is who he is. He’s a natural,” said Shipley. “He is one of those guys who is a student of the game. He gets better every single year.”
Harvey said he has tried to pick the best traits from all his coaches and blend them into his own style.
He credits Gonyar with being the “most influential person, coaching-wise, I’ve ever played for.
“I was very fortunate to have him — just the intensity, focus and drive that he had. His intensity was phenomenal. He taught me a lot about the mental side of coaching.”
Husson men’s basketball coach Warren Caruso has taught Harvey a lot about structure and organization.
“I learned how to run a program off the field,” said Harvey, who is an assistant athletic director at Husson in charge of facilities and the work-study program.
Harvey added that his former Brewer American Legion coach, Dave Morris, gave him valuable insight into “how to handle players. He was tremendous.”
Winkin and his vast knowledge of baseball was useful in teaching him “how to think outside the box. He knew every rule. Baseball was more than pitching, hitting and defense. He brought a lot of other things to the table,” Harvey said.
And he said his year playing at UMaine for Paul Kostacopoulos was valuable.
“From a baseball standpoint, he probably taught me the most,” said Harvey, the second of five sons raised by Tom and Cheryl Harvey. “Being at the Division I level, I got a lot of experience and I was able to bring those drills, that style of play and that approach back to our level.”
Harvey admitted that he struggled academically in the big-class setting at UMaine, which led him back to Husson.
He is grateful to former Husson athletic director and current football coach Gabby Price for elevating him from assistant to head coach after Winkin’s stroke. He also said Price and Caruso were instrumental in informing him about the ins and outs of recruiting “especially the first couple of years.”
After going 16-23 his first year, the Eagles went 33-14 the next year, won the conference title and went 2-2 in the NCAA Regional.
“Success breeds success. We hadn’t had a lot of success before I took over and during my first year but once we started having success, it put us on the map for student-athletes, especially in-state,” said Harvey. “Year two for me really turned things around.”
Harvey said his baseball program has benefited significantly from Husson’s flourishing academic curriculum and facilities improvements.
In-state players have always dominated his roster. Twenty-five of the 32 players on this year’s roster are from Maine.
The 30-year-old Harvey readily admits he is competitive, even if it’s “wiffleball in the front yard or playing cards with my wife.”
Harvey and Kristin have two young sons, Jacoby and Drew. He said Kristin keeps him grounded and is a valuable sounding board.
He is a strong advocate of aggressive baseball and likes to vary his practices to keep things fun and fresh for his players.
“I love to watch his practices,” said Price, who considers Harvey a “phenomenal coach.”
But Harvey has been more than just a coach, according to his current players.
“I wouldn’t be in college if it wasn’t for coach Harvey,” said senior shortstop-second baseman Cody McInnis of Bangor. “I can’t put into words what he has meant to me. I didn’t have spectacular grades coming out of high school, but he knew my situation and had faith in me to come in and do what I needed to do. He gave me support. He relates to us. He’s still a young guy who likes to do the things we do like golf and play basketball. He’s a great teacher who knows the game. And he is always there for you off the field.”
Senior pitcher Pat McEwen of Brewer said Harvey has been a father figure.
“You can go to him and talk about anything at any time. He is intense at the right times, but he has also taught us how to have fun playing the game.”