Sytia (sit-TEE-uh) Messer, a 22-year coaching veteran who won a national title and made five other NCAA Elite Eight and 11 overall NCAA Championship appearances as an assistant coach, has been named the 13th head women’s basketball coach in UCF history, Vice President and Director of Athletics Terry Mohajir announced today.
UCF will hold a press conference to officially introduce new head coach Sytia Messer Tuesday at 2 p.m. in the lobby of Addition Financial Arena. More information to come.
Messer comes to UCF after serving as associate head coach at LSU for the 2021-22 season under 2022 Associated Press National Coach of the Year and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer Kim Mulkey.
“Due to the great success our team had this past season, we knew we had to find a coach that we believe could continue to elevate our program. It quickly became crystal clear that Sytia was the right coach for us at the right time.” — Terry Mohajir, director of Athletics
“Due to the great success our team had this past season, we knew we had to find a coach that we believe could continue to elevate our program. It quickly became crystal clear that Sytia was the right coach for us at the right time,” Mohajir says. “She has played and coached in multiple Final Fours. She has recruited and developed a long list of great players in the ACC, the Big 12 and this last year the SEC. She played a major role in a great run at Baylor, and she has been an accomplished head coach. Sytia understands what it takes to be successful on and off the court — and that will make her a great fit at UCF.”
“We are excited to welcome Coach Messer to the UCF family. She brings to UCF a championship pedigree as a coach and player, tremendous success as a recruiter, and strong track records of winning with integrity and fostering student-athletes’ academic excellence,” UCF President Alexander N. Cartwright says. “We are proud of the incredible achievements of our student-athletes, both on the court and in the classroom, who have taken our women’s basketball program to new heights with the enthusiastic support of Knight Nation. We look forward to coach Messer further elevating our program — and our university — on the national stage.”
As an assistant coach on Mulkey’s staff at Baylor from 2013-14 through 2020-21, Messer helped lead the Bears to a combined record of 260-23 (.918) in eight seasons, winning eight Big 12 Conference regular-season championships, six conference tournament titles, an NCAA title in 2019 and making six NCAA Elite Eight appearances.
With Messer’s help, Baylor won 32 or more games in each of her first six seasons with the Bears — the last of those a 37-1 record in the 2019 NCAA title campaign. In those six years Baylor finished sixth or higher in the final Associated Press poll every season — including first in 2019 and second in 2018. Messer’s eight seasons at Baylor included 23 NCAA Championship victories and at least a tie for the Big 12 regular-season title every year.
“For decades, Orlando has been a place where dreams come true, and becoming the head coach of the women’s basketball program at UCF is a dream come true for me,” Messer says . “My vision aligned perfectly with UCF’s vision for success, and I can’t thank Dr. Alexander N. Cartwright and Terry Mohajir enough for selecting me to lead this program. I also want to share how much I truly respect the work of each head coach who preceded me in this endeavor and thank them for all that they poured into the program and the young women that have competed and graduated from UCF. I am eager to start a new era of UCF basketball. Let’s go Knights!”
“For decades, Orlando has been a place where dreams come true, and becoming the head coach of the women’s basketball program at UCF is a dream come true for me.” — Sytia Messer, UCF women’s basketball head coach
During her time at Baylor, Messer oversaw scouting and recruiting, helping the Lady Bears sign the nation’s top recruiting class in both 2016 and 2018 as well as the second-ranked class in 2015. She helped recruit 15 top 50 players and 14 McDonald’s All-Americans. The Lady Bears had nine players selected in the WNBA Draft during that span, including Odyssey Sims, the second overall pick in 2014, and Alexis Jones, the 12th overall selection in 2017.
In addition, Messer recruited Kalani Brown, a first-round (seventh overall) draft pick of the Los Angeles Sparks in 2019, and Lauren Cox, the nation’s top-rated recruit out of Flower Mound High School in Texas and the third overall draft pick by the Indiana Fever in the 2020 WNBA Draft. She also helped develop Didi Richards, the 2020 Naismith Defensive Player of the Year at Baylor, as well as 2022 first-team All-SEC honoree Khayla Pointer at LSU.
In eight years at Baylor, Messer coached Sims (the 2014 Big 12 Player of the Year) and had seven guards named first-team All-Big 12 Conference. She also recruited and signed 2021 Wade Trophy winner and Big 12 Player of the Year NaLyssa Smith. Baylor in Messer’s tenure there produced eight selections on one of the three Associated Press All-America teams—including first-team picks Sims (2014), Nina Davis (2014), Cox (2020) and Smith (2021). Smith claimed first-team honors again in 2022.
Since joining the Baylor staff is 2013, Messer’s teams over the last nine years have produced 73 All-Big 12 selections, 20 All-America honorees, five Big 12 Players of the Year, 26 Academic All-Big 12 selections and two All-SEC performers.
A head coach for three seasons at Tennessee Tech from 2009-10 to 2011-12, Messer led the Golden Eagles to the 2011 Ohio Valley Conference regular-season championship, two postseason appearances (WNIT in 2011, WBI in 2012), back-to-back appearances in the OVC tournament title game–and she was named the 2011 OVC Coach of the Year. Her three-year mark of 54-41 (.568) featured an overall 23-8 record in 2010-11, a three-year 34-18 OVC mark and 30-12 home record.
Messer got her start in coaching as an assistant coach for two years at Arkansas State in 2000-01 and 2001-02. Other coaching stops for Messer include assistant coaching positions at Memphis (2002-03 and 2003-04) and Georgia Tech twice (2004-05 through 2008-09; 2012-13).
In her second season at Memphis, Messer helped the Tigers to a 21-10 mark and a second-round WNIT appearance. She played a key role on Georgia Tech teams that three straight years won at least 21 games and advanced to NCAA Championships in 2007-08-09.
The Waldo, Arkansas, native was a standout women’s basketball student-athlete at Arkansas, where she helped the Razorbacks reach the NCAA Final Four for the first time in school history in 1998.
Messer finished her career with the Razorbacks (1995-96 through 1998-99) ranked in the school’s top 10 for points (1,379) and rebounds (603). She was a two-time captain for Arkansas as a junior and senior and was named to the SEC All-Freshman team in 1996. Messer’s top individual season came when she averaged 12.6 points per game in 1997-98 and she added 12.2 per game as senior in 1998-99.
She was named the 1998 NCAA Championship West Regional MVP after helping Arkansas to a berth in the Final Four—thanks to regional wins over Kansas (led by Messer’s 24 points) and eight-ranked Duke (team-leading 20 points). Arkansas, seeded ninth in the NCAA bracket that year, became the first unranked team in the modern era to advance to the Final Four. The win over Duke is ranked as the greatest in Arkansas women’s basketball history.
Messer also helped Arkansas to the 1999 WNIT championship. She’s a member of the Razorbacks Hall of Honor (inducted in 2018) and was part of the 2012 Class of SEC greats.
She started 96 career games, played in 128 consecutive games and helped her Razorback teams to win totals of 21 as a freshman (1995-96), 22 as a junior (1997-98) and 20 as a senior (1998-99).
Messer played in the summer prior to graduation for the collegiate squad of Athletes in Action. She also played for the post-college Athletes in Action touring team.
She is a 2000 graduate of Arkansas, with a bachelor of science degree in kinesiology. She has been an honorary chair of Habitat for Humanity — and she also was a 2012 graduate of the Center for Coaching Excellence.
For more information on Messer’s career, visit ucfknights.com.