Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Bond with coach Sue Semrau fuels Florida State Seminoles into women's NCAA basketball tournament

For Florida State women's basketball coach Sue Semrau, it was a sobering realization.

And then a startling revelation.

"One of the things I've done the poorest job with over the last couple of years is building relationships off the court with the players," she said. "That used to be my strength."

But after the death of one of her players, Ronalda Pierce, in the summer of 2004 from an aortic rupture brought on by a rare and undiagnosed genetic disorder, Semrau gradually began keeping her players more and more at arm's length off the court.

This year, she stood up in front of her players, and then later the media, and confessed the desire, the need, to know them as individuals and for them in turn to know her.

"It was then an open door to developing the types of relationships that have been so positive and an open door to encouraging them to develop those relationships with one another," she said.

That has happened, and those outside the FSU family can see that on the basketball court, where the Seminoles are closer-knit than ever and have enjoyed unprecedented success together.

The No. 12-ranked Seminoles (25-7), who claimed a share of the ACC regular-season title for the first time, earned a program-best No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament and open against No. 14 seed North Carolina A&T (26-6) today in Duluth, Ga.

"In previous years, it was pretty much just business," junior forward Jacinta Monroe said. "This year, we're not just business partners or have a coach-player relationship. We're friends or aunt-nieces or mom-daughters. We have a much closer relationship with her."

You better believe that translates to the court.

"You trust her more," senior guard Tanae Davis-Cain said. "You don't fight her in practice when she's doing things she feels will make you better but you don't necessarily want to do. You know she has a good heart and that she knows what's best for you."

Trust leads to confidence, which makes it more likely for a tough coaching call, such as removing promising freshman center Cierra Bravard from the starting lineup, to pan out.

"Even though I didn't get my starting spot back, as a team and as an individual, we started playing better and got into a groove," Bravard said. "I didn't let the fact that I wasn't starting bother me or let that come between me and my teammates."

That might not have happened if she hadn't built a bond with her coach and her new teammates and established a trust and, just as important, a confidence in them.

"That starts at the top, and it starts with Coach Sue," Monroe said.

Semrau routinely sends text messages to her players about matters that have nothing to do with basketball, and her assistants also have gotten even more involved with the players.

"The kids need to understand that I know what matters to them and not just on the court," Semrau said. "I've always said, 'You won't know how much I know until you know how much I care.' "

Brian Landman can be reached at or (813) 226-3347.


Florida State vs. North Carolina A&T

When/where: 2; Arena at Gwinnett, Duluth, Ga.


Notable: The Seminoles, the No. 3 seed in the Trenton Region, are in the NCAA Tournament for a fifth straight year and have won their opener every year in that span. Only in 2007 did the Seminoles win the second game to advance to the program's first Sweet 16. But FSU has always had to travel quite a ways to start the NCAAs (Storrs, Conn.; Denver; Stanford, Calif.; and Des Moines, Iowa, in 2008) as a lower seed. This time, FSU will be close to home when it faces No. 14 seed North Carolina A&T. Said coach Sue Semrau: "Just to be able to stay in the southeast and on a neutral court is thrilling."

Bond with coach Sue Semrau fuels Florida State Seminoles into women's NCAA basketball tournament 03/20/09 [Last modified: Friday, March 20, 2009 10:32pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays rally twice to beat Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ARLINGTON, Texas — Starting Erasmo Ramirez on Monday after he closed out Sunday's marathon win turned out, despite the Rays' best intentions and rigid insistence, to be a bad idea as he gave up four runs without getting through three innings.

    Erasmo Ramirez, starting a day after closing a 15-inning marathon, struggles against the Rangers and comes out after throwing 43 pitches in 21/3 innings.
  2. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Monday's Rays-Rangers game

    The Heater

    The Rays had good reason to have faith in RHP Erasmo Ramirez starting Monday after closing Sunday based on his resiliency, versatility and efficiency. But it still turned out to be a bad idea as he allowed four runs without getting through three innings.

  3. Rays journal: Dugout bench becomes bed for Logan Morrison at end of long night

    The Heater

    ARLINGTON, Texas — The Rays found creative ways to get through the physical and mental fatigue of the 6½ hours they spent playing — and ultimately winning — Sunday's game in Minnesota.

    Corey Dickerson drapes towels over an exhausted Logan Morrison in the dugout during the 15th inning of Sunday’s marathon victory.
  4. Rays at Rangers, 8:05 p.m. Tuesday, Arlington, Texas

    The Heater

    Tonight: at Rangers

    8:05, Globe Life Park, Arlington, Texas

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun, 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    SURPRISE, AZ - MARCH 2: Nick Martinez #22 of the Texas Rangers poses for a portrait during photo day at Surprise Stadium on March 2, 2015 in Surprise, Arizona. (Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images)
  5. What major sporting event could Tampa Bay land next?

    Lightning Strikes

    We are on quite a roll as a community. First, we had a Super Bowl drop from the storm clouds into our lap. It just reaffirms the fact that Tampa Bay is great at lap. And Monday it became official: Next year's NHL All-Star Game will be held at Amalie Arena. The best in the world will be here to shoot and score. And …

    MVP Wayne Gretzky is congratulated at the 1999 NHL All-Star game, the last time the event was in Tampa Bay. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times file]