Central College WBB Coach steps away; Takes over men’s program

Determined to bring championships to the program he first joined as a player 22 years earlier, Joe Steinkamp is taking over as Central College’s head men’s basketball coach.

A 2003 Central graduate and former Dutch co-captain, Steinkamp has served as the school’s women’s basketball coach the past five years after spending 10 years as a Central men’s basketball assistant. In 2017, he inherited a women’s program that was coming off a 4-21 season and had not recorded a winning record since 2002. Steinkamp quickly initiated a turnaround, leading the Dutch to conference tournament berths in 2019-20 and 2020-21, the program’s first tourney appearances since 2004-05. In 2021, Central advanced to the semifinals for the first time since 2001 and Central’s 15 wins in 2019-20 were the most recorded since 1997-98.

A young team endured a disrupted schedule this past season, finishing 6-15, but all five starters return for 2022-23, including two all-conference players. It makes it a difficult time for Steinkamp to leave, he said.

“Getting back to the conference tournament and winning a tournament game, there’s definitely some momentum there,” Steinkamp said. “It’s still a young team and the future is very bright.”

While Steinkamp isn’t the one who will lead that squad in the future, he said he’s excited that remaining at Central will allow him a front-row seat to watch the team continue its ascent. And he’s grateful for the time he shared with the team.

“This is the only job I would have considered leaving the women’s program for,” he said. “I just want to thank the players that I got to coach for how hard they worked.and I want them to know how much I appreciate being a part of their lives as well.”

Even after the resignation of Central men’s basketball coach Craig Douma at the end of the season, Steinkamp said the position was not on his radar. But he was recently contacted by athletics director Eric Van Kley, who saw a chance to improve both programs.

“We are determined to do everything we can do to make both Central’s women’s and men’s basketball programs successful,” Van Kley said. “We took a hard look at it and we think we have a great opportunity here with Joe. We feel like he’s done a tremendous job in helping the women’s program build some positive momentum and that we can accelerate that even more in the seasons ahead. At the same time, Joe has been a part of several championship men’s teams here and is passionate about Central men’s basketball. Joe knows Central, he knows our alumni and we believe he’s the best person to lead our program.

“Joe is a high-character coach who cares about his players. He not only can help them succeed on the floor but in their development off the court as students and in their daily lives. There are challenges ahead but he’s committed to making this program a winner and there is no one who will outwork him in making that happen.”

Van Kley said the search for a new head women’s basketball coach is already underway.

“We’re excited about what we see in the women’s basketball program and the young players we have,” Van Kley. “We’ve made a lot of strides and it’s critical that we not lose that momentum. Our priority is helping support the student-athletes in both the men’s and women’s programs. We’re going to move carefully but quickly to help ensure that.”

Steinkamp’s commitment to Central men’s basketball runs deep.

A two-time letterwinner at Central, Steinkamp spent a year as a graduate assistant women’s basketball coach at Loras College where he receive a master’s degree, followed by a season as men’s junior varsity coach at Central and a year as a volunteer assistant at Lewis University (Ill.). He was an assistant for former Dutch coach Mike Boschee from 2006-12, then returned to assist Douma from 2013-17. Steinkamp helped lead Iowa Conference championship squads in 2010 and 2014 and NCAA Division III tournament participants in 2010, 2014 and 2016.

“I’ve been a part of Central basketball for almost half of my life,” he said. “Some of my best memories, both personally and professionally, have come with the basketball program. It has such a family atmosphere and there are so many proud alumni I’ve played with and coached. I just looking forward to working hard to get back to being a program that competes for championships and gets back to the national tournament.”

Steinkamp is confident that can happen.

“My last six or seven years in the program I think we won more conference games and championships, both tournament and regular season, than any other school,” he said. “I think I have a great idea of what it takes to win at Central. We’ve done it before and now we can add the new facilities we have and the momentum we have in our athletics department.”

Central recently completed an $18 million renovation/expansion of P.H. Kuyper Gymnasium which includes spacious new locker rooms for the men’s and women’s programs.

Steinkamp’s message to current and prospective players is clear.

“I don’t think anybody loves Central basketball more than I do and I understand what it means to play for Central and what it takes to win at Central,” he said. “We’ll play a brand of basketball that is exciting to watch and exciting to play. We’ll have players that want to work really hard and do whatever it takes to make this a program that our alumni and players are proud of.”           


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