Morning Conversation: FSU Women’s Head Basketball Coach Sue Semrau
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - After her mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, FSU Women’s Head Basketball Coach Sue Semrau walked away from the game to travel across the country, live with her parents in Seattle for a year and help her family win in the game of life. Now, a year later, her mom is cancer free, and Semrau is back in Tallahassee.
Semrau joined WCTV’s Michael Hudak for a morning conversation.
MH: Coach Sue, how are you? How have you been?
SS: I’m great. I know I made the best decision of my life. To stay in Seattle as long as I could with my family, and my mom is doing great.
MH: You’ve always been someone who has exuded great strength, but how did this time with your mother give you a different kind of perspective on strength?
SS: It’s a great question. I think I got my strength from her anyway, and so you know, I knew that she would fight. It was never fun to watch anyone hurt and go through that, but the way she came through it was really strong. The day that she asked my to move furniture together, I was like, I don’t feel like moving furniture, how do you feel like moving furniture?
MH: How difficult was it to watch your team from a distance over the last season, and how much of your family’s furniture that you mentioned got destroyed, or flipped in the process of rooting on your team?
SS: “It wasn’t as difficult as I thought, because I know that they were in great hands. The hardest thing for me was not what the team was doing, but what each individual player was doing. I could find myself going like, ‘Go! you’ve got to attack! You gotta, you know, lets go! Get down in a stance.’ My parents bought a little puppy, we got one for them, and this poor puppy was just like hating basketball days because like, hahaha.
MH: The first thing I thought of when you announced that you were stepping away for a year was, ‘man, I don’t think I’ve ever seen her take a break from coaching, let alone a year-long hiatus. It was difficult for me to even imagine you doing that, how difficult was it for you to actually do that?
SS: The decision, you know, I wrestled. Thinking, ‘how can I do this?’ You know, going back and forth. At the time, it was nearly impossible to do both because you had to wait two or three days on either end to get your Covid test back. That’s when it really became apparent that I had to make a choice, and the family was the choice that I’ve always told our players to make, and so it was a no-brainer.
MH: Can we talk about your team? Brooke did an absolutely masterful job. The team made the NCAA tournament, 15 schedule changes, they finished fourth in the conference. It was special to see them come together. What can you say about the job that she did?
SS: You know, I think your word was perfect, ‘masterful.’ You know, it’s never easy to, all-of-the-sudden, have every decision that’s placed right on you. And I tried to make sure she knew that this was hers. I didn’t want anyone looking at me. I wanted them to look at her so she could really understand what it was like. She made great decisions, she was a really great manager of people. And I think what she did was she proved that she’s almost ready for it.
MH: What is next for her? Will Brooke continue to coach with you? It has to be difficult to get a taste of head coaching even for one season.
SS: Well, she’s been courted by so many different programs. I’ve encouraged her to take a look at those. I think what she wants to do is learn everything she can, knowing that every year, as people approach her, if the right job is there, then she’ll go and take it.
MH: By now, I’m sure you’ve seen the now infamous video of the women’s NCAA tournament workout room and how it played in comparison to the men’s NCAA tournament workout room. What were your thoughts when you first saw that, and what are your thoughts on the way the NCAA handled the situation in the wake of all of that?
SS: Well, I think I have to give you the backdrop that I was the president of the WBCA a few years back. So, I’ve known the discrepancies that are there. You know, the weight room was a huge one, but it wasn’t anything that was planned. Certainly someone I think came to Indianapolis and said ‘this is what we want to do for you.’ And just like anything else, no one from San Antonio was like, ‘well we want to do this for you. So it wasn’t something that was left out, it was something that wasn’t thought of. i just really want to start to understand what NCAA athletics are as far as equity is concerned. Football and men’s basketball are the two sports that bring in 90%of the money, so I understand that you would want to treat it really well. But that’s not the mission. Because they are able to capitalize on the media attention and get the money, now they have to make some choices how they are going to distribute that. I think the choices are becoming a little harder now that there’s been that type of exposure.
MH: When you go through everything you’ve been through, you take time off, and then you come back to work. You might be like, ‘wow, having that time to myself was really nice.’ Did you feel that at all, do you feel any temptation to maybe go back to that or are you ready to hit the ground running and get this thing going again?
SS: Well, I gotta be honest with you, I felt a lot of temptation in that direction, because you look at everything that becomes your world, and it’s not the world. When I got back to Tallahassee though, that was the big thing for me. When I sat down and met with the players, that’s why I do it. When I got back in the gym with them and just felt the passion, that’s why I do it. So, you know, we’ll see how it goes. I’m looking forward to it, I hope they are too.
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