Joe Kittell has made an immediate impact on the University of Mary men's basketball program. In his first two season he had a combined record of 31-29 and finished 6th and 8th in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference standings. The team’s 22 conference victories over those two season was an increase of 10 wins from the prior two seasons.
Under Kittell’s direction, forward Bryan Jefferson earned back-to-back first team All-NSIC honors (2016 and 2017), becoming just the third UMary player to earn first team honors and only the second to claim first team honors twice.
Off the floor Coach Kittell received the 2017 Samaritan’s Feet Barefoot Coach of the Year, an award honoring his volunteer work and awareness raised for the organization. He was presented the award at the John Wood Awards Banquet at the site of the 2017 Final Four in Phoenix, AZ. Previous recipients of the award include Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens and University of Kentucky’s John Calipari, among other.
In his first season with the Marauders, the squad improved by ten wins, recorded the program's third winning season in NCAA and Northern Sun play, hosted an NSIC playoff game for just the second time and advanced to the league semifinals for the second time. Taking over a program that has won just 20 times the previous three years combined, Kittell led the Marauders to a record of 19-12 overall and 12-10 in the Northern Sun in 2015-16. UMary finished third in the NSIC North Division and sixth overall, a jump of six placed in the standings from the year earlier. Among the wins was a 77-73 victory at #3 MSU Moorhead, the highest-ranked team U-Mary has beaten since beginning NCAA play in the 2006-07 season. Jefferson was selected to the All-NSIC first team for the first time in his career.
The Marauders won two playoff contests, 76-72 over Concordia-St. Paul at home in the first round and 96-91 over Minnesota State in the quarterfinals. UMary had just one playoff win the previous nine seasons. In 2016 Kittell was also a finalist for the NDAPSSA College Coach Male of the Year.
The University of Mary selected North Dakota native Joe Kittell as the school's eighth men’s basketball coach in May 2015. Kittell, who has extensive coaching experience at the highest level of collegiate basketball, was the head coach at Lake Region State College.
Prior to UMary the Garrison, N.D., native coached at NCAA Division I, NAIA and NJCAA programs and still has yet to experience a losing season in 14 years on the bench. Along the way Kittell has worked with several current NCAA Division I head coaches, including University of Nebraska Head Coach Tim Miles, North Dakota State University Head Coach David Richman and University of South Dakota Head Coach Craig Smith.
“I have great confidence in Joe Kittell,” said Miles, a Mary graduate and a member of the Marauders Athletic Hall of Fame. “I had the pleasure to work with him for five years at North Dakota State and Colorado State. I love his energy level and his compassion for people. He’s got an excellent mind for the game of basketball and a tremendous work ethic in recruiting. I believe he will be a great asset for the University of Mary.”
“Coach Kittell's energy and passion for the game and for the great state of North Dakota make him and his wife, Emily, a great fit within the Bismarck and University of Mary community,” said Richman. “Joe is a tireless worker that has truly worked his way up the coaching ladder, learning every step of the way. We wish Joe, Emily and the entire University of Mary community all the best!”
“The University of Mary made a great hire in Joe,” said Smith. “Joe is a fantastic person, an excellent coach and a relentless recruiter. His passion for people and basketball is contagious to all.”
In two seasons as head coach at Lake Region State in Devils Lake, N.D., Kittell directed the Royals to a record of 42-20. His winning percentage of .677 is second all-time at LRSC. The Royals finished 23-8 last season, cracking the 20 win mark for the first time in over five years. The squad was 19-12 in his first season as head coach in 2013-14.
Kittell joined Lake Region after spending the three seasons (2010-13) as an assistant coach at Gillette College. During this three seasons Gillette finished a combined 58-33.
In 2009-10 Kittell spent the year as video coordinator at NCAA Division I Colorado State University along side Miles and Smith. The Rams finished 17-17 overall, placed fifth place in the Mountain West Conference and earned a berth to the College Basketball Invitational Tournament.
Kittell worked as an assistant boys basketball coach at Breckenridge (Minn.) High School in 2008-09 and was director and coach for Every Child's Important (ECI) Youth Services, a non-profit organization that runs summer traveling basketball teams in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. He went on to become the owner, director and coach for ECI Basketball from 2010 to the fall of 2012. During his time with ECI Basketball the program helped produce over a hundred national and regional college athletes, including 10 NCAA Division I basketball players and many Northern Sun student-athletes.
In 2007-08 Kittell served as the assistant men's basketball coach at North Dakota State College of Science. The team finished 25-6 and won the Mon-Dak Conference tournament.
Kittell was an assistant at Mayville State University in 2006-07. Working with Smith, the MSU head coach, the Comets went 27-9, won the Dakota Athletic Conference regular season and conference tournament championships, and made the NAIA Division II National Championship game.
His college coaching career started as a student at North Dakota State under the tutelage of Miles. Kittell worked with Miles for four seasons while pursuing his bachelor’s degree. During his time in Fargo, the Bison recorded four straight winning seasons and made the transition from NCAA Division II to NCAA Division I in 2004.
In addition to coaching, Kittell has also lectured and served as a sports information director.
A 2002 graduate of Garrison (N.D.) High School, Kittell earned a bachelor's degree in Physical Education K-12 in 2006 and master's degree in Health, Nutrition, and Exercise Science in 2008, both at North Dakota State University. He is married to Emily. The couple have a son, Miles.