Florida State women's basketball coach Sue Semrau expressed gratitude for the support she got from her team and colleagues while she took this past season off to go to Seattle and care for her mother, Rosemary, who is recovering from ovarian cancer. Semrau came back to the job April 1 and spoke to the media on Friday for the first time since she returned.
"Her last scan after the treatment showed no signs of cancer," Semrau said of her mother, who had clear-cell carcinoma. "They were pretty aggressive with the chemo treatment. She has to meet a lot of different markers every three months. She's doing great. She has more energy right now than I have half the time. But cancer is so unpredictable, so awful.
"I'm extremely happy, and at the same time, I know what cancer is all about. But I'm glad she's feeling better. What I was able to do for my family trumped everything. When my mom had a full head of hair and was double-vaccinated, and my dad was double-vaccinated, and she had a new puppy, it was like, 'OK, now I can go back.'"
Semrau, who turned 59 in March, will begin her 24th season at Florida State in the fall and has a 453-257 career record. Her teams have reached the NCAA Elite Eight three times.
Former Florida State player Brooke Wyckoff, Semrau's longtime assistant, was interim coach this past season and led the Seminoles to a 10-9 overall record, 9-7 in the ACC. Florida State made the NCAA tournament as a No. 9 seed, losing in the first round to No. 8 seed Oregon State. Wyckoff is returning to the associate head coach role.
"I was so proud of them, to keep the streak of going to the NCAA tournament," Semrau said of the Seminoles' eighth consecutive trip, and 15th in the last 16 tournaments. "That was really a great feat for Brooke with a relatively new team to all of their different roles."
Semrau said she knows Wyckoff could have head coaching opportunities elsewhere, but is pleased that for now she is staying at Florida State. Wyckoff played for the Seminoles from 1997-2001, then competed in the WNBA for eight seasons. She returned to her alma mater as an assistant in 2011.
"To see the poise with which she coached, the adjustments she was able to make - it's a really hard job," Semrau said. "She really proved how talented she is. For her to be coming back is such a gift for me, for the players. She said, 'I can help you more now that I've been in this position.' "
Semrau said she kept an eye on what was going on with women's basketball nationally while she was away, too. A former president of the Women's Basketball Coaches Association, Semrau has been dealing with inequities in the sport for a long time and said a recent call that WBCA coaches had with NCAA president Mark Emmert was insightful.
"We were able to speak very directly about what we've seen for years," Semrau said. "What we really want and need right now is to understand, 'What is women's basketball to you, NCAA?' "When I was (WBCA) president, we were fighting to get the opportunity to do more, and were told, 'No, you don't make enough money.' You saw how exciting the tournament was. So I think a lot of work needs to be done and we need to follow up with every single issue that's out there."