Sue Semrau knew the decision she had to make. After more than two decades of putting her Florida State family first, sacrificing time with her mom and dad, it was time for Semrau to return home to help care for her mom.
Semrau announced on Tuesday that she would take a one-year leave of absence from coaching the women’s basketball team, handing over day-to-day responsibilities to longtime assistant coach Brooke Wyckoff.
“Every decision we make in our program is based on the fact that you are a person first, you’re a student second and you’re an athlete third,” Semrau said Thursday in a Zoom call with reporters. “And so when I come to this decision, I need to put my money where my mouth is and make a decision personally and for my family.”
The decision was made easier because she had Wyckoff, who played on Semrau’s first FSU team in 1997-98, on her staff. Wyckoff will coach the team in practice and games, while Semrau will remain active as a recruiter by phone from Seattle. Semrau said she wanted to give Wyckoff “authority with the responsibility” to make decisions.
FSU will also make internal promotions to help Wyckoff with the team. Joy McCorvey will be associate head coach in the interim, while Morgan Toles will be recruiting coordinator. Video coordinator Adam Surguine will be elevated to an assistant coach. (Semrau said Surguine would be able to go on the road and recruit, but when he does that she won’t be doing anything so FSU is compliant by NCAA rules.)
Semrau and Wyckoff, who has been an assistant coach at FSU since 2011-12, spoke at length to media on Thursday. Here are some highlights of what they had to say:
Semrau’s mom was diagnosed with cancer in February and coronavirus changed everything in March. Her mom has had chemo treatments and Sue has only been able to visit twice for a few weeks at a time because of the turnaround in COVID-19 testing. In April or May she began to think about what she would do and hoped that the positive coronavirus cases would significantly decrease. When that didn’t happen, Semrau began to discuss the idea of taking leave with FSU administrators because she didn’t want to get close to the start of the season or into the schedule and then move to Seattle.
Wyckoff knew Semrau had been dealing with the emotions of living across the country from her parents and wanted to have the chance to visit them more often. “Coach Sue and I are blessed to have not only a professional relationship, but a family type of relationship where she knows what’s going on in my life in my personal life and vice versa,” Wyckoff said.
In the last few years, Semrau has fielded calls about Wyckoff and gauged her interest in leaving FSU for a head coaching job. Wyckoff could not have pictured being a head coach under these circumstances but said, “I feel like coach has been preparing me since I was 17 years old. For this moment.”
Semrau and Wyckoff informed the team via Zoom call on Tuesday of what would be happening. “My heart was in my stomach when I told them, but I knew it was the right time,” Semrau said. “They were phenomenal. I was blown away. … We’ve talked about family first for 23 years, we’ve talked about excellence and they deserve excellence. And I wasn’t going to be able to give them my 100 percent and that’s not fair to them.”
Wyckoff was asked what type of head coach she will be and laughed.
“I have to be super cool, calm and collected and mature,” Wyckoff said. “I hope I just have it all together, never look like I’m losing it. That’s where I hope to be.”
Semrau is the godmother to Wyckoff’s daughter, Avery, who is 6. The relationship spans 23 years and one that has strengthened through the years. Semrau was asked if she feels like a proud parent in seeing Wyckoff earn the chance to step in and be head coach for the season.
“I’ve always looked at Brooke as somebody that just really embodies who we are at Florida State because of her loyalty, her work ethic, her competitiveness,” Semrau said. “And to see that come full circle, like you said, and come to fruition where she gets an opportunity now to serve in this capacity is definitely a proud parent moment, but I think it’s a proud Seminole moment.”