Arkansas native becomes fourth Golden Eagle head coach
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- A new era in Tennessee Tech women's
basketball began Monday morning with the naming of Sytia Messer as
the new Golden Eagle head coach. Messer comes to TTU from Georgia
Tech where she was associate head coach.
“I am so excited to be here and to be named the next head coach at Tennessee Tech University,” Messer told a standing-room-only crowd of 200 at a press conference to introduce her.
“I am looking forward to continuing the tradition,” she said. “In my opinion, Tennessee Tech is a diamond in the rough. It’s just a great situation to be in, and I’m excited about bringing the tradition back to Tennessee Tech where it belongs.”
A native of tiny Waldo, Arkansas, Messer was a standout player at the University of Arkansas and was an assistant coach at Arkansas State and the University of Memphis, before spending the past five years on the staff at Georgia Tech.
TTU Director of Athletics Mark Wilson introduced Messer, the final step in a nationwide search.
“We had to find the very best educator,” Wilson said. “We had to find the very best coach. We had to find the very best person to lead our student-athletes, and to restore the tradition of Tennessee Tech Golden Eagle women’s basketball.
“Coach Messer is a proven recruiter, and we know recruiting is the foundation of a successful program,” Wilson said.
The new head coach was impressed by the large turnout for her introduction.
“I can’t wait to see the community in the stands. We’re looking forward to displaying our heart and our sweat to you guys when we’re on the court.
“My coaching philosophy is ‘Teamwork makes Dreams Work.’ I want my players to know that through teamwork, we will make your dreams work,” she told the crowd, which included Tech’s incoming freshman class. “From graduating to possibly playing on the next level, together we’ll make your dreams work.”
Asked what the next step will be, Messer talked about meeting her team, getting into the community and competing in the Ohio Valley Conference.
“The next step is I want the players to get to know me and I want to get to know them,” she said. “I’m ready for the opportunities. I’ve always welcomed challenges, and we’re ready.”
She said recruiting locally will be the starting point for her staff.
“My plan is to get out into the community and meet the different high school coaches. My number one plan of action in terms of recruiting is to start within the state and locally,” she said.
She is anxious to begin play in the Ohio Valley Conference.
“I definitely see the OVC as being very competitive,” Messer said. “I see it as a blue-collar conference. You have players who just play hard and work hard.”
Georgia Tech head coach MaChelle Joseph called Messer a “rising star” in women’s basketball coaching circles.
"Sytia Messer is one of the brightest young coaches out there. Tennessee Tech has hired a rising star,” Joseph said in a statement.
"Sytia has experienced success at every level,” Joseph continued. “As a player at Arkansas she led her team to the Final Four. At Memphis as an assistant coach she experienced success in Conference USA. And lately, at Georgia Tech she helped take the program to the three best seasons in its history. I can't wait to see what she is able to accomplish as the head coach of Tennessee Tech."
She recently completed her fifth season on the Yellow Jacket women's basketball staff and first as the team's associate head coach. At Georgia Tech, she worked with the post players and guards.
Serving as the team's recruiting coordinator the past five seasons, Messer's classes have all ranked in the top-25 in the nation. The 2008-09 class, ranked as high as sixth by All-Star Girls Report, was one of the best in the nation and it included three star athletes from the state of Georgia.
The 2007-08 class was considered one of the best recruiting classes in school history. The Yellow Jackets inked the highest-ranked player ever to sign with the program, while the freshman class included three Street & Smith's honorable mention All-Americans.
Prior to joining the Yellow Jacket program, Messer served as an assistant coach at Memphis, working with the perimeter players and team rebounding while serving as the primary recruiter of junior college players. During her two-year tenure at Memphis, the Tigers posted a 34-25 overall record and were 15-13 in Conference USA play. The 2004 Memphis team earned a bid to the WNIT, where they advanced to the second round before falling to quarterfinalist Western Kentucky. Messer was instrumental in the development of Victoria Crawford, the 2004 Conference USA Sixth Man of the Year.
Messer began her coaching career at Arkansas State, where she was an assistant coach under Brian Boyer for two years. At ASU, Messer was responsible for coaching guard play and team rebounding while serving as a recruiter of junior college and high school players.
As a player, Messer was a member of the Arkansas Razorbacks teams that advanced to the Final Four in 1998 and earned the 1999 WNIT Championship.
She finished her career ranked seventh on the Lady Razorbacks' all-time scoring list with 1,379 points. She was also10th in career rebounding with 603, sixth in free throws made with 329 and fourth with 112 career three-pointers. A team captain in both her junior and senior seasons, Messer held the record for consecutive games and most games played at Arkansas with 128. A mark that stood until 2002.
Messer led her 1998 Razorback team to a 22-11 record and an appearance in the NCAA Tournament, where she was named the MVP of the West Regional and where the team eventually lost to national champion Tennessee in the Final Four. The previous season, she had helped her Arkansas team to its first victory over the Volunteers in the history of the program by holding 1997 and 1998 NCAA Tournament MVP Chamique Holdsclaw to a career-low five points in Fayetteville. Messer then led her team to the 1999 WNIT Championship and earned All-Tournament team honors during her senior campaign.
The 1996 PRIME Network Freshman All-America was an active member of multiple Athletes in Action teams while serving on the Student-Athlete Advisory Board.
Note: Correct pronunciation of coach Messer's first name is: sit-TEE-uh (with accent on middle syllable).