SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — The dean of Heart of America Athletic Conference coaches, Steve Jenkins announced his retirement as Evangel University’s men’s basketball coach Wednesday, closing a storied 39-year chapter in which he helped lead the program to national prominence.
“Stepping aside after 39 years as head coach is a very emotional moment for my family and me,” Jenkins said. “This decision has not come easy, as Evangel has been my life for 44 years. When I made the decision to return here in 1977, I was aware of the challenges I would face in achieving my goal of not only becoming a successful coach, but also a strong role model for the young men God was about to place in front of me. What a quick, fun ride it has been representing my Lord and Savior, as well as my alma mater.”
Jenkins compiled a 692-542 (.561) overall record as Evangel’s head men’s basketball coach, ranking fourth among active NAIA men’s head coaches and 21st on the organization’s all-time wins list.
“I am humbled by the numerous former players and coaches who have chosen to pursue a coaching career. Seeing them leave our program and become successful coaches and men is truly an honor,” Jenkins added.
Jenkins’ tenure at Evangel, beginning as a student-athlete and continuing through the present day as a Hall of Fame head coach, spans over a half century and has helped shaped not only Evangel Athletics, but the University as a whole. EU captured seven Heart of America Athletic Conference Championships and made 13 NAIA national tournament appearances. In those seasons, he was named Heart Conference Coach of the Year seven times and earned NAIA National Coach of the Year honors in 2002, after leading Evangel to the NAIA-II National Championship.
“Steve is the epitome of Evangel Athletics and sets a great example for all who follow him,” Evangel Director of Athletics Dr. Dennis McDonald stated. “He influences his players to have a strong walk with God, to excel academically and to always strive to be top athletes. Steve is truly a great man and I am proud to call him my friend.”
With Jenkins at the helm, Evangel turned in one of the more dominant stretches in Heart Conference men’s basketball history. After leading EU to its first NAIA postseason berth in 1996, he helped elevate the men’s basketball program—and University—onto the national stage over the ensuing two decades. Evangel captured six regular-season conference titles, six conference tournament championships and earned 11 NAIA National Tournament berths in a 15-year span. EU finished first or second in the Heart regular-season race in 12 of those seasons and won at least 20 games 13 times, including a string of 10-consecutive 20-win seasons from 2005-06 through the 2014-15 campaign.
The historic 2001-02 season saw Evangel finish 35-1 and post a perfect 20-0 conference record en route to the University’s first NAIA national title. A pair of standouts earned first-team All-America recognition, with Daniel Cutbirth and Bryan Osterloh sharing Heart Conference Player of the Year honors. Cutbirth also earned Most Outstanding Player laurels at the national tournament. Evangel cruised from start to finish as the top-ranked team in the nation, capturing the program’s second Heart Conference Tournament championship.
Under Jenkins, 24 different Evangel players earned a total of 37 first-team All-Heart Conference honors, with six bringing home the league’s Player of the Year award, along with two Freshman of the Year honorees, four Newcomer of the Year winners and one Defensive Player of the Year recipient.
Additionally, Evangel has garnered 33 NAIA All-America selections during Jenkins’ tenure, most recently with Cade Coffman earning the distinction during the 2019-20 season. Before the consolidation of the NAIA’s two divisions, Evangel made the jump to Division I, where 10 players were honored as All-Americans, including two-time selection Zack Kleine (2013, 2014). In 2015 Korey Tillery became the first Division I All-American first-team honoree for EU and just the fifth first-team selection in program history.
An exceptional teacher and mentor of the game, Jenkins can boast of a robust coaching tree that currently includes more than 30 former players and staff members holding coaching positions throughout the country.
Evangel Athletics’ all-time leader in coaching wins, Jenkins was inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame in 2014, joining former athletic director Dr. David Stair as the second EU recipient of that honor. Jenkins, who earned his 600th career win on January 9, 2014, was also selected for induction to the Evangel Athletics Hall of Fame (2006), the Millwood Golf and Racquet Club Hall of Fame, the Springfield Area Sports Hall of Fame (2011), the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame (2013) and the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame (2016).
A 1974 Evangel graduate, Jenkins earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and physical education, graduating with summa cum laude honors. Jenkins starred as a student-athlete for EU, both on the basketball hardwood and the baseball diamond during his undergraduate experience. He lettered four years in baseball and three times in basketball.
Following his graduation from Evangel, Jenkins pursued his coaching and teaching career at Evangel Christian School in Lakeland, Fla., where he coached basketball and baseball from 1974-76. Jenkins also received his master’s degree from the University of South Florida in 1978.
Jenkins returned to Evangel for good in 1977, serving as an assistant to then-head coach Aundrae Curtis. After five years in that role, Jenkins was promoted to the post of head coach for the 1982-83 season.
As head coach of the Evangel baseball team from 1978-83 as well, Jenkins logged a 132-97-3 overall record. He mentored five all-district performers, including the first NAIA All-American (Scott Morgan) and Academic All-American (Eric Collins) in program history. His 132 wins rank No. 2 on EU’s all-time coaching wins list for baseball. He also served as EU’s men’s golf coach from 1998-2016, earning Heart Coach of the Year honors in 2010 and 2012 and leading the program to its first conference championship.
Jenkins and his wife, Rhonda—a 1974 Evangel graduate as well—are Pittsfield, Ill., natives. They have three grown children—Sarah, Jon, and David and reside in Springfield.
A national search for the next Evangel men’s basketball coach will begin immediately.
Evangel University, with the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary (AGTS), is a comprehensive Christian university committed to excellence in educating and equipping students to serve the Church and society globally. Evangel and AGTS serve more than 2,200 students from all 50 states and numerous foreign countries, offering 70 undergraduate majors and 19 master and doctoral degrees.