KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Joe Mitch, who has served as executive director of the United States Basketball Writers Association for close to four decades, is the 2019 recipient of the Cliff Wells Appreciation Award from the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC).
He will receive the award, presented for long and outstanding service to college basketball and the coaching profession, on Sunday, April 7, at the AT&T NABC Guardians of the Game Awards Show at the Main Auditorium of the Minneapolis Convention Center. The show, which begins at 6:30 p.m. CT and will be broadcast live on Stadium, is held during the annual NABC Convention in conjunction with the NCAA Division I Men’s Final Four.
Mitch, who is retiring in May, spawned tremendous growth in the USBWA during his tenure, taking the group from a few hundred members to more than 900 sportswriters and journalists covering college basketball today.
“Joe Mitch is special. He is the consummate professional. Joe was never looking for personal recognition but pursued what was best for the Missouri Valley Conference, college basketball writers and college basketball,” said NABC Executive Director Jim Haney, who worked with Mitch while serving as commissioner of the MVC for three years.
“His years as the USBWA executive director mirrored the incredible growth and popularity of men’s college basketball. I truly believe that Joe was an important player behind the scenes in the advancement in our sport.”
Mitch began his career in college athletics after graduating from Michigan State University with positions in sports information at Saint Louis University, the University of Dayton, Southern Illinois University and Illinois-Chicago. He served as assistant commissioner of the Metro Conference and later helped lead the Missouri Valley Conference as assistant commissioner and later associate commissioner, helping develop the MVC’s television network, sponsorships and marketing properties while directing the MVC men’s basketball tournament for 27 seasons.
Mitch has been at the forefront of developing USBWA programs to promote college basketball and sports writing, offering scholarship awards to students pursuing careers in sports journalism and guided the development of numerous awards including the Oscar Robertson Trophy, presented to the national players of the year; the Henry Iba Award presented to the Division I national coaches of the year; and the Wayman Tisdale Award, presented to the USBWA national freshman of the year.
The working relationship between the NCAA and USBWA has also benefitted from Mitch’s leadership. The two groups have aided improved working conditions for writers in areas such as access to players and coaches, security and seating at games.
“Joe Mitch aced the job. Not only was he operating the controls, Joe was the USBWA's good will ambassador and gave the organization a respected presence in basketball circles,” said Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star, USBWA president in 2000-01. “His dedication, his ability to make every member feel welcomed and valued and his leadership during challenging times in the industry will forever be appreciated. We will long benefit from Joe's tenure as USBWA executive director.”