Wheeler athletic director Randy Stelter had to pinch himself when he realized he had the chance to hire longtime Duneland Athletic Conference volleyball coach TR Harlan.
Harlan, who resigned as the Michigan City coach earlier this year because the long commute was taking time away from his newborn daughter, was equally interested in taking over a program that is only 10 minutes from his house.
“We had a conversation and mutually expressed interest,” Stelter said. “It was kind of a, ‘How soon can you get here?’ He came in and we talked and we got it done.”
Harlan was officially named Wheeler’s head volleyball coach at last week’s school board meeting. Wheeler guidance counselor Amanda Gibson also was installed as the new varsity girls basketball coach after spending last season working with the middle school program.
“We got two really good coaches,” Stelter said. “A lot of prayers answered.”
Harlan has spent 24 years coaching volleyball, all in the Duneland Athletic Conference. He’s been at Valparaiso, Chesterton and Michigan City and is now intrigued at taking over the Bearcats, a member of the Greater South Shore Conference.
“I’m excited to see some new gyms,” Harlan said. “Kids are kids and I’m not worried about sharing kids with other sports. With the success Wheeler has had in softball and soccer, winning is winning. You learn to win whether it is on the volleyball court or if you’re a great checkers player. I’m not worried about the talent level. We’re going to show up and we’re going to play. I’ll coach them the same way I coached everybody at Valpo, at Chesterton and at Michigan City. I’m not looking to reinvent the wheel.”
Wheeler has finished second in the Class 1A girls soccer state tournament each of the past two seasons.
What Harlan was looking to do this year was spend more time with his 10-month-old daughter Kamryn. A handful of schools reached out to Harlan after he stepped away from Michigan City, but Wheeler was the only school he had interest in because of the close proximity to his house.
“This all came about because I get to be Kamryn’s dad,” Harlan said. “The drive to Michigan City got to be a little bit too far. I want to be around as she gets older. I want to see her walk, see her crawl. Now I’m literally 10 minutes away.”
Gibson’s promotion was a dream come true for the 2009 Griffith graduate. She has spent the last eight years as an assistant coach at both Griffith and Hobart before she got involved with the Wheeler middle school program last year. Gibson takes over for Dave Seils, who went 43-74 in five years with the Bearcats.
“I’m so excited to get started,” Gibson said. “I’ve wanted to do this since I played high school basketball. I’m extremely lucky to be in this position at such a young age. I told Randy last year that I would love to get involved in the basketball program and to keep my name in mind. We’ve worked closely together at the high school all year and I’m thrilled to have this opportunity.”