Gary Adams retired as the head coach of UCLA Baseball on June 30, 2004 after 30 seasons at the helm of one of the most successful and respected collegiate programs in NCAA history.
Adams established himself UCLA's all-time winningest head baseball coach, totaling a 984-823-7 record in 30 seasons. Prior to UCLA, Adams was head coach for five seasons at UC Irvine, where he had a 185-68-5 record and won two NCAA Div. II College World Series titles. He helped cement his place in college baseball history with career victory No. 1,000 on March 13, 1999, at Arizona, and finished his career with an overall record of 1169-891-12.
Coaching in the Pac-10 Conference, among the nation's most competitive leagues, Adams helped lead UCLA to top-four finishes in 18 of 30 seasons. That total includes four conference titles – 1976, 1979, 1986 and 2000 – and five second-place finishes.
Adams guided the Bruins to NCAA Regional appearances eight times since 1990. His UCLA teams reached the NCAA Regional finals six times and the College World Series once. Adams' first playoff team at UCLA, the 1979 Bruins, lost to eventual NCAA Champion Cal State Fullerton. It would take 18 years and three more trips to the NCAA Regional Final before the Bruins finally broke through to the College World Series.
Under Adams, the UCLA baseball program enjoyed unparalleled success in sending athletes to Major League organizations. Led by Phillies' first-rounder Chase Utley, the Bruins set a collegiate record with 12 players selected in the 2000 MLB Draft. In all, 17 of Adams's UCLA student-athletes were chosen in the first round. His 2004 squad set a school record after 10 players, nine of whom were drafted, signed professional contracts upon the season's conclusion.
Two former Bruins who played under Adams won MLB's Rookie of the Year Award – the Dodgers' Eric Karros in 1992 (National League) and the Royals' Bob Hamelin in 1994 (American League). A total of 37 former Bruins from the Adams Era played in the Major Leagues, including nine from the 1986 Pac-10 championship team.
Adams's philosophy for the baseball program, entitled "The Bruin Way," never wavered throughout his successful 30-year career. An aggressive, running style of offense on the field combined with strong academic emphasis off the diamond has characterized UCLA baseball for three decades. Adams personally monitored the academic progress of each student-athlete and set up mandatory tutoring sessions. As a result, three Bruins – Don Slaught (1979), Tim Leary (1979), and Mike Magnante (1988) – were honored as Academic All-Americans.
Another facet of UCLA's emergence as an acclaimed baseball program has been the development of Jackie Robinson Stadium. Adams was a driving force in the construction of the Bruins' home park, which opened in 1981 with an exhibition game between the Bruins and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Adams played second base for the Bruins in 1959, 1960 and '62. In 1960 he formed UCLA's double play combination with his twin brother, Gene. After missing the 1961 season due to a knee injury, Gary was the team captain and MVP as a senior in 1962, leading the squad with a .265 batting average.
He returned to Westwood in the fall of 1974, following five seasons as head coach at UC Irvine. In those five seasons, the Anteaters won 73 percent of their games under Adams and captured the 1973 and 1974 NCAA Div. II Championships. Adams was named District 8 Coach of the Year both seasons and was selected NCAA Div. II Coach of the Year in 1974.
Adams earned his degree in 1962 and received his master's in Physical Education from UCLA two years later. While working towards his graduate degree, he began his coaching career as a varsity assistant and head frosh baseball coach. Adams spent the next four years (1965-1968) as an assistant coach at UC Riverside, then ascended to the top job at Irvine in 1970.
Over the winter and summer breaks, Adams ran the UCLA Baseball School at Jackie Robinson Stadium.
Adams is also a member of the Riverside Sport Hall of Fame (2006) and the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame (2011).