clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Top 30 UCF Greatest Head Coaches: #30-21

We begin the countdown of the top head coaches in UCF history

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Photo: Derek Warden

A lot has changed since the world emerged from the COVID-19 lockdowns, which was the last time we ranked the UCF Knights head coaches of years past.

In just three years, several coaches have added to their legacies, while others burst onto the scene and made their presence felt.

With UCF getting ready for its first year as a member of the Big 12 (and in the Sun Belt in Men’s Soccer), it’s time the count down the Top 30 Head Coaches in UCF History.

Criteria used to create this list include:

  • A coach’s impact on their respective sport and on the school
  • Accomplishments during their tenure
  • Accolades they received during their tenure

We made sure to include at least one coach from every current UCF sport.

Before we begin, a few honorable mentions who just missed out on this list (in no particular order):

  • Bob Winch, Men’s Soccer (1993-2004)
  • Marcia Mansur-Wentworth, Track and Field (1995-2007)
  • Emilee Klein, Women’s Golf (2005-2009)
  • Mike Kruczek, Football (1998-2003)
  • Meg Fitzgerald (Colado), Volleyball (1999-2007)
  • Patricia Allison, Women’s Tennis (1999-2007)
  • Courtney Trimble, Women’s Golf (2009-2012)
  • Lynn Bria, Women’s Basketball (1996-1999)
  • Dennis Kamrad (1973-2003) and Leeanne Crain (2003-2007), Rowing
  • Greg Lovelady, Baseball (2017-2023)

Now, let’s begin the countdown:

#30 - Joe Sanchez (Women’s Basketball)

Joe Sanchez was head coach at UCF from 1981-1985.
Warner University

Joe Sanchez helped transition the Women’s Basketball program from the AIWA Division 1 level into being an NCAA Division I Independent. Sanchez posted a 92-37 record in his four seasons (1981-1985) as head coach, leading UCF to the AIWA Elite 8 in 1982 and making the NCAA Division II Tournament in 1983 and 1984.

#29 - Gerry Gergley (Wrestling, Men’s Golf)

UCF Athletics

Gerry Gergley gave two UCF programs their starts. Chiefly, he was head coach of the wrestling program from 1970-1980. During his decade with the team, he went 108-42 overall, ranked Top 10 in the nation five times, and produced five All-Americans. The wrestling program ended up being discontinued in 1985.

Gergley also founded the UCF men’s golf team and served as the head coach for its inaugural season in 1979-80, which ended with a Sunshine State Conference Championship.

According to his UCF Athletics Hall of Fame biography, Gergley started UCF Athletics’ fund-raising program, helped then-AD Dr. Jack O’Leary in the planning of the first football team, and became also UCF’s first strength coach in 1983.

#28 - Josh Heupel (Football)

Derek Warden

Hired after the departure of Scott Frost following UCF’s undefeated 2017 season, Heupel kept the program’s momentum rolling, winning his first 12 games and leading the Knights to their second consecutive undefeated regular season and an American Athletic Conference Championship. It was during this season he introduced the mantra of “Going 1-0.”

He followed that up by going 10-3 in 2019, taking UCF to a bowl game for the fourth consecutive year, a 48-25 victory over Marshall in the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl.

He also led the team through the 2020 COVID season, seeing the team through its full nine-game schedule with no cancellations. His 6-3 record got the Knights a bid to its fifth consecutive bowl game, the Boca Raton Bowl, which they lost to #16 BYU, 49-23.

Heupel left UCF in 2021, following former UCF AD Danny White to become the head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers.

T-#27 - Lex Wood (Men’s Tennis)

Florida State Athletics

Alexander “Lex” Wood laid the foundations for the UCF men’s tennis program. He started the program and served as its head coach from 1970-1977.

The team began competition in 1972 as a club team and joined NCAA Division II in 1974. During Wood’s tenure, the Knights went 102-46 overall and, according to Wood’s UCF Athletics Hall of Fame biography, finished 10th, 11th and 17th nationally.

All of this culminated in Wood’s final season with the program in 1976-77.

The Knights achieved their best record in program history to that point (30-4) and took home the inaugural Sunshine State Conference championship in their first season in the conference. The team earned the #1 seed in the NCAA Division II South Regional that year and reached the semis at the NCAA Division II National Championship, finishing 4th nationally. Additionally, two Knights, Toby Crabel and Doug Baxter, both made it to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Singles Championship and were named All-Americans, according to the July 1, 1977 edition of the Central Florida Future.

Wood ultimately stepped down from his position due to it requiring more time than he could spare, as he coached the team alongside his job as an associate professor in the College of Education, according to the Future. Additionally, the State University System did not offer money for full-time tennis coaches at the time.

The ramifications of Wood’s impact reverberated in the following seasons as the Knights won both the inaugural and the 2nd Sunshine State Conference Tournament in 1978 and 1979.

Wood retired from his associate professor position on Aug. 1, 2004, according to university records (via a UCF College of Community, Innovation, and Education spokesperson). He was inducted into the UCF Athletics Hall of Fame in 2010 and is also in the Florida State Athletics Hall of Fame as a player.

T-#27 - Don Jonas (Football)

Don Jonas was the head coach that started it all for the UCF Football program. He initially served as a volunteer head coach for the inaugural 1979 season before earning full-time status in 1980. He went 14-12-1 overall and 11-6-1 at home in the Citrus Bowl during his three seasons.

He stepped down as head coach in July 1981 to concentrate on fundraising for the team as the director of the UCF Gridiron Club, as the program was making its transition into Division II for the upcoming 1982 season. However, once the 1982 season wrapped up, Jonas resigned from that position due to what then-AD Bill Peterson said was an inability for the university to support a full-time athletic fundraiser, according to the Dec. 10, 1982 edition of the Central Florida Future.

Jonas was inducted into the UCF Athletics Hall of Fame in 2013. He was honored on the field for UCF’s 500th football game on Nov. 20, 2021.

#26 - Nick Clinard (Men’s Golf)

Nick Clinard was the UCF’s Men’s Golf Head Coach from 2002-2009, leading the Knights to NCAA Regional play in five of his last six seasons (2004, 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2009). The Knights won six tournament titles in Clinard’s last two seasons. Additionally, he also led the team to an ASUN Championship in 2004, a CUSA Championship in 2009, and one NCAA Regional title, also in 2009. He was also named CUSA Coach of the Year in 2009.

Clinard posted nine tournament victories during his time at UCF and coached one All-American, two conference players of the year, three individual conference champions, and eight all-conference selections. He left after the 2009 season to become Auburn’s head coach, where he remains today.

T-#25 - Karen Richter Hoppa (Women’s Soccer)

Courtesy of Karen Hoppa

Following a Hall of Fame goalkeeping career as a player, Richter was the head coach for the UCF Women’s Soccer team from 1993-1998, posting a 64-44-9 record with five ASUN regular season championships (1993-1996, 1998), four ASUN Tournament Championships (1994-1996, 1998) and an NCAA Tournament appearance in 1998.

Richter is one of three former UCF athletes that went on to be the head coach of the team they once played for. She took the job after two seasons as an assistant coach, a job she took following her playing career ended in 1990.

Karen Hoppa, as she is known now, left UCF to become the Auburn Head Coach where she has guided the Tigers to 17 NCAA Tournament appearances in 24 seasons.

T-#25 - Gus Malzahn (Football)

Photo: Derek Warden

Gus Malzahn’s first two seasons as UCF head football coach in 2021 and 2022 produced back-to-back nine-win seasons and the sixth and seventh-straight bowl games for UCF, one of which was the iconic Gasparilla Bowl victory over Florida.

Malzahn was one of three finalists for the Steve Spurrier Award presented by the Football Writers Association of America for the best head coach in his first year at a school in 2021.

#24 - Bryce Wallor (Men’s Golf)

In Bryce Wallor’s fourteen seasons at UCF since taking over in 2009, eleven of them have seen at least one golfer representing UCF in an NCAA Regional.

Wallor has led UCF as a team to the postseason eight times (2010-14, 2017, 2018 and 2022) and advanced to the NCAA Championships four times (2012, 2013, 2017, and 2018). This includes an NCAA Regional title in 2017.

Additionally, the Knights won two CUSA championships (2010 and 2011) and 26 total tournaments during Wallor’s tenure. He was named CUSA’s Coach of the Year in 2011.

#23 - Becky Cramer (Rowing)

Becky Cramer has been part of all six NCAA Tournament appearances for the UCF Rowing program with five as Head Coach.
UCF Athletics

Becky Cramer took the UCF Rowing team to new places during her 19-year tenure that came to an end in 2023.

She began as an assistant under Leeanne Crain in 2004, coaching the novice squad. She would eventually help lead the Knights to their first NCAA Championship appearance in 2007.

Cramer would then take over the program, initially as an interim head coach in 2008. From 2008-2022, she led the Knights to five consecutive American Athletic Conference Championships and subsequently five consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances (2015-2019). UCF finished in the Top 20 overall in every appearance.

#22 - Laura Smith (Volleyball)

UCF Athletics

Laura Smith is one of three former UCF players to return to Orlando to coach the team they once played for. After an already Hall-of-Fame-worthy career as a player, she spent seven seasons as head volleyball coach from 1991-1997. She went 188-74 overall and led the Knights to six consecutive ASUN titles (1992-1997).

Smith got the Knights back to the postseason for the first time since 1981 when she led the team to a bid in the 1993 National Invitational Volleyball Championship. She followed that up with four consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. This culminated in 1997, her final season, as UCF got its first NCAA Tournament victory, a 15-7, 15-13, 15-1 sweep against Clemson.

She was inducted into the UCF Athletics Hall of Fame two years later in 1999.

T-#21 - Bryan Koniecko (Women’s Tennis)

Bryan Koniecko has helped rewrite UCF Women’s Tennis history in his sevens seasons as head coach. He led the Knights to two AAC titles (2019 and 2021), the program’s first conference titles since 2002. He also led UCF to the NCAA Tournament five times (2018-2019, 2021-2023) and to the Sweet 16 twice (2019, 2021).

T-#21 - John Roddick (Men’s Tennis)

While John Roddick’s actual title is Director of Tennis, meaning he oversees both the men’s and the women’s tennis teams, the achievements of the women’s tennis team since his arrival were already covered in the previous entry.

As for the men’s team, when Roddick first took over as head coach in 2016, the Knights were a combined 1-12 against American Athletic Conference teams since they joined the conference. In his seven seasons at the helm, Roddick has gone 23-10 in AAC play and led UCF to an AAC Championship in 2021, the program’s first conference championship since 2005.

Roddick also led the Knights to the NCAA Tournament three times (2017, 2019 and 2021), with the initial 2017 appearance being the first time they went dancing since 2005.

More history would get made during Roddick’s tenure in 2021, when not only did UCF advance to the NCAA Tournament as a national seed (#9) for the first time in program history, but it also won its first NCAA Tournament matchup in program history with a 4-0 sweep of Monmouth. Additionally, he would also coach Gabriel Decamps to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Singles Championship that season, another program first.

Since Roddick’s arrival, UCF’s home court, the USTA National Campus, has hosted the NCAA Division I Tennis Championships three times (2019, 2021 and 2023).