TAMPA, FL – University of South Florida Director of Athletics Mark Harlan today named Mark Kingston the sixth head coach in USF baseball program history since the program began in 1966.
A two-time Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year honoree, Kingston comes to USF with a long track record as a top-level recruiter and a producer of offensively explosive teams. He spent the previous five seasons as the head coach at Illinois State University where he led the Redbirds to two MVC regular season championships, one conference tournament title and twice broke the program’s season wins record. He won more than 30 games in each of his five seasons at ISU, a program-record string that included a season-record 39 wins in 2013, reached the MVC tournament championship game three times and compiled an overall record of 173-102 (62.9%).
“I am very excited to welcome Mark and his family to USF,” Harlan said. “There was a tremendous amount of interest in our baseball head coaching position from across the country, and Mark clearly rose to the top. He is one of the best young coaches in collegiate baseball today and has a tremendous background of competing and winning at the highest level. He is a very compelling leader for our baseball program.”
Kingston has helped lead nine teams to NCAA Tournament berths as an assistant and head coach – with four of those teams appearing in the NCAA Super Regionals, two participating in the College World Series and one winning a national championship. As a player at the University of North Carolina, Kingston was part of the 1989 Tar Heels squad that won an Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season title and advanced to the College World Series. He also helped UNC win the ACC Tournament and advance to NCAA Regionals in 1990.
“I am thankful to Mark Harlan for the tremendous opportunity to be the head baseball coach at a terrific university like USF and in a great baseball community like Tampa,” Kingston said. “I can’t wait to get started. We have unbelievable facilities, great support and the building blocks in place to be a championship program at USF. I know from my experience at Miami how great baseball is in Florida and I’m excited to return.”
Kingston helped the Hurricanes capture the 2001 College World Series as the No. 1 overall seed as an assistant coach. His 18-year collegiate coaching career also includes stops at Tulane, where he helped guide the Green Wave to the 2005 College World Series as well as recruited and coached 10 future Major League Baseball players, and Purdue.
Drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers out of North Carolina in 1992, the Northern Virginia native played professionally for five seasons with Milwaukee and the Chicago Cubs organizations.
Kingston was twice named a “Rising College Coach” by Kendall Rogers of Perfect Game USA during a five-year tenure at ISU (2010-2014) in which he earned MVC Coach of the Year honors in 2010 and 2013 and helped 18 Redbirds earn first team all-MVC honors. Two of his players were named MVC Player or Pitcher of the Year and eight were selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
Kingston led ISU to rapid success as the Redbirds ranked second in conference wins (64) from 2010-14 while posting two first-place finishes and no worse than a fourth place MVC finish. His overall winning percentage of .629 and average of 35 wins per season were a strong improvement. ISU’s average RPI rating of 69.50 from 2010-13 ranked fifth among all northern Division I programs and Kingston’s recruiting classes contained 15 players ranked in the Top 20 in the state of Illinois by Prep Baseball Report, more than any other university.
He took over the ISU program after serving one season as the team’s associate head coach and promptly posted the most successful first-year head coaching stint in program history. Kingston led the 2010 Redbirds to their first-ever share of the MVC regular-season title, their first MVC Tournament title since 1994 and their first NCAA Tournament game victory since 1976. ISU’s 32-24 record was the most wins for the Redbirds since 1999 and the most ever by a first-year head coach.
Kingston helped second baseman Kevin Tokarski become the first-ever Redbird to earn the MVC Player of the Year Award, the MVC Tournament Most Outstanding Player Award and three All-America selections. Six Redbirds were named All-MVC selections.
In 2011, Kingston guided the team to a then-record season win total (36-18), including a marquee victory at Miami, and seven players onto the All-MVC team. The following year (2012) ISU went 33-19 and posted a 10-game win-streak, the program’s longest since 1984. Closer Kenny Long was selected by the Houston Astros in the 22nd round of the MLB First-Year Player Draft, marking three-consecutive seasons in which a Redbird was selected in the MLB draft.
In 2013, Kingston guided ISU to a program-best 39 wins (39-19), posted a school-record 12-game winning streak, won the Missouri Valley Conference outright for the first time in school history and set a Valley-record with eight first-team All-MVC selections. Offensively, ISU paced the MVC in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and home runs and the pitching staff fired a program-record 13 complete-games, including 10 shutouts.
The Redbirds tallied a Valley-low 2.75 ERA in conference games and Chris Razo became the first pitcher in school history to be named MVC Pitcher of the Year. A school-record four players were selected in the 2013 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft as Chad Hinshaw (Los Angeles Angels), Brett Kay (San Francisco Giants), Chris Razo (Milwaukee Brewers) and Eric Aguilera (Los Angeles Angels) earned professional contracts.
His 2014 ISU team posted a 33-22 record, reached the MVC title game for the second consecutive season and led the nation in strikeouts per nine innings.
Prior to returning to ISU, Kingston was part of 500 wins (500-279-2) in 13 seasons as an assistant coach and was widely respected as one of the top assistants in the nation. He spent the previous seven years at Tulane University serving as recruiting coordinator and the final five seasons as associate head coach with the responsibility of overseeing recruiting, coaching hitters and developing catchers and infielders.
At Tulane, Kingston’s recruiting and coaching efforts helped the Green Wave to six postseason appearances, two NCAA Super Regionals and a berth in the 2005 College World Series. The 2005 Green Wave team was seeded as the top-team overall while also receiving the top-academic honor in Omaha. Tulane averaged nearly 42 wins per season with Kingston on staff.
Praised by many for his ability to transfer knowledge to his players and develop talent, Kingston also has a knack for finding and recruiting talented players. In six of his seven seasons as recruiting coordinator for the Green Wave, Kingston’s classes ranked in the top-25 in the nation. Kingston signed eight of the nation’s Top-100 prospects in 2003 and 2004, and the 2005 class was tabbed as the No. 4 class in the country by Baseball America.
Kingston recruited or coached seven players who became All-Americans at Tulane, including James Jurries (2002) and Michael Aubrey (2003). The Green Wave sluggers became the first hitters in 18 years to hit .400 for the season and both earned Conference USA Player of the Year recognition. Aubrey was selected by the Cleveland Indians 11th overall in 2003, the highest Tulane player ever taken in the Major League Draft.
Prior to Tulane, Kingston spent two years at Miami (Fla.) where he helped the Hurricanes capture the 2001 College World Series as the No. 1 overall seed. While at Miami, the Hurricanes finished with top-five school single-season marks in batting average, runs scored and slugging percentage, and led the nation with 228 stolen bases in 2001. In the run to the 2001 national title, the `Canes had an NCAA-best 17-0 run to end the season and set a College World Series record with 12.3 runs per game while hitting .373 as a team in Omaha.
Under Kingston’s tutelage, two Hurricanes players earned All-America honors, three earned Freshman All-America recognition, rookie Kevin Howard was named the 2000 Baseball America National Freshman of the Year and 18 players went on to sign professional contracts.
Kingston spent one year as an assistant at Illinois State helping the 1999 Redbirds set a then-school record for wins in a season (35), runs scored, RBI, doubles, hits and walks, while finishing second in school history in home runs, total bases and batting average.
Kingston began his coaching career with two seasons at Purdue, helping the Boilermakers post three of the top-seven batting averages in school history and place five position players on the All-Big Ten team after not posting any the year before his arrival.
A 1995 graduate of North Carolina with a degree in communications, Kingston was part of the 1989 Tar Heels squad that won an Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season title and advanced to the College World Series. He also helped the team win the ACC Tournament and advance to NCAA Regionals in 1990 as a sophomore. Kingston received the Trippe Bourne “Most Dedicated Player” Award for his outstanding work ethic and leadership during his junior campaign, and was named a team captain his senior season.
Kingston attended Potomac High School (Virginia), where he developed into a Collegiate Baseball Top-50 Prospect and was drafted by the New York Yankees after leading his team to the 1988 state championship. In 2006, Kingston was inducted into the Potomac Hall of Fame.
Kingston and his wife, the former Letitia Kelly, have three children, Kailyn Grace, Cameron James and Kathryn Patricia. He also wrote and produced two instructional videos for Championship Productions, “Keys to Consistent Hitting” and “Catching Drills and Fundamentals”. He also was the only assistant coach chosen to write a chapter in “The Baseball Drill Book” produced by the American Baseball Coaches Association.