NORMAL — Mark Kingston, who led the Illinois State baseball team to five consecutive 30-win seasons, has left the Redbirds to become the head baseball coach at the University of South Florida.
"It's bittersweet, no question," Kingston said Wednesday. "It's been an honor to coach here. I think we made some great strides."
Kingston took over a Redbird program that had posted losing records in seven of the past eight seasons in 2009. He leaves Normal with a 173-102 record that includes a program-record 39 wins in 2013 and a 33-22 record this past season.
ISU won two Missouri Valley Conference regular season titles under Kingston, played in three MVC Tournament championship games and appeared in one NCAA Tournament. The 44-year-old Kingston was selected Valley Coach of the Year twice.
"We're all proud of the championships we won. I'm proud of being the leader in that effort, but it was an effort of many. So many people had a hand in that," said Kingston. "There is so much in place for Illinois State to be very good in baseball. I think it will be strong for years and years to come."
At South Florida, Kingston assumes the reins of a program in the baseball hotbed of Tampa. The Bulls play in the 3,211-seat USF Baseball Stadium.
"Most people know I've got a real soft spot in my heart for the state of Florida," said Kingston, who was an assistant at Miami from 1999-2001. "The opportunity to coach at such a prestigious place with so much potential is something I had to take advantage of."
ISU director of athletics Larry Lyons said Kingston did "an outstanding job" in his time as Redbird coach.
"Mark has done everything we asked him to and probably a little bit more regarding our baseball program," Lyons said. "He came in as associate head coach with the promise to be head coach. There is a certain level of trust when you make that arrangement.
"There is no question he's elevated our baseball program to the level we expect it to be. Mark has been great to work with, and we congratulate him on the new opportunity."
Kingston is expected to take pitching coach Bill Mohl and assistant coach Mike Current with him to South Florida, although Kingston said Wednesday those hirings have yet to be finalized.
Associate head coach Bo Durkac remains at ISU and has expressed interest in becoming head coach, according to Lyons.
"Bo has chosen to stay here, and he will be on staff with us for the near term," Lyons said. "We will see where the search process takes us. We're just getting geared up. We'll get organized and start our process. I hope we can move quickly, but I can't say we have a definitive time line."
Kingston expressed confidence in Lyons making a hire to keep the Redbird baseball program strong.
"I know Larry will make a great decision on the future of Illinois State baseball," said Kingston. "I think Bo would be a very strong candidate for him."
South Florida director of athletics Mark Harlan called Kingston "a very compelling leader for our baseball program. He is one of the best young coaches in collegiate baseball and has a tremendous background of competing and winning at the highest level."
The Bulls are a member of the American Athletic Conference and finished with a 27-31 record this season.