An all-America selection as a sophomore, K.C. Comerford was told by Georgetown women's basketball Coach Mary Briese three months ago there was no place for her on the team. One of the leading scorers and best players in the school's history was not even allowed to try out.
Comerford, recruited four years ago by Division I powers Old Dominion and UCLA, is spending her senior season attending classes and shooting baskets at Yates Field House in pickup games. The Hoyas, meanwhile, are 2-3..
"I couldn't believe it and thought I didn't understand her at first," Comerford said. "She told me that I couldn't play anymore and that was it."
Comerford talked the situation over with men's Coach John Thompson, who counseled her to try out anyway. Thompson declined to comment when asked about Comerford.
Comerford twice attempted to attend informal preseason practices with the team but says she was ordered out of the gym by Briese.
"Last spring, Mary had told me that I would have to try out this year," said Comerford, who last summer was the only American on the Swedish national team and has already received offers to play professional ball in Italy after graduation.
"I just wanted to play basketball and Mary didn't even tell me that I couldn't. If she knew at the beginning of school, why didn't she tell me during the summer and give me the chance to transfer?"
On Sept. 10, Georgetown announced that Comerford would not be returning and Briese cited "personal differences regarding Comerford's role in the program."
"K.C. and I agree that it is in her best interest and in the best interest of the program that she not participate this season," Briese said in a prepared statement. Briese has refused further comment.
Georgetown athletic department officials were reluctant to discuss the situation on the record, but said they felt the problem was mostly Comerford's. They talked about an attitude problem, but declined to get specific.
"Georgetown University can withstand criticism and any negative publicity that might result, but we're not going to retaliate by attacking her," said one athletic department source. "Mary tried to work things out with K.C. but she (Comerford) refused to comply with certain specific requests."
Comerford's troubles began when Briese was named head coach after the firing of Frank Carr, who had led the Hoyas to a 17-9 record in 1980-81. (Last year, the Hoyas were 9-17, but played an upgraded Big East schedule.) Briese, a former player at Maryland and a Georgetown assistant for two years, had problems with Comerford early on.
"I didn't see or hear everything that went on between Mary and K.C., but what I did was all Mary's doing," said Erin Reid, who was cocaptain of the team last season. "No matter what K.C. did, it wasn't good enough. She would scream and embarrass her on the court. It was obvious that Mary didn't like her or want her around."
Carr, who selected Briese as his assistant and heir apparent four years ago and also recruited Comerford, agrees with Reid's assessment.
"Mary wasn't ready for the job and this is the result," Carr said. "K.C. would play her heart out for you if she were treated right. It's just awful what's happened to her."
Comerford also recounted several incidents that happened to other players.
"She would just do odd things," said Comerford, the daughter of former Baltimore Bullet Edward Comerford. "One time she refused to pay for some players' meals because they were two minutes late for breakfast."
In midseason last year all 12 team members met with Athletic Director Frank Rienzo to air their grievances. Several parents also sent letters to William Stott, a university vice president, demanding Briese's dismissal; others met with Rienzo.
"Having listened to the players and reviewing their concerns, I didn't think any precipitous coaching changes were warranted," said Rienzo. "I'm convinced that the women's basketball program is a program in successful transition, not a program in trouble."
Comerford said the meeting with Rienzo only seemed to inflame the situation between Briese and her.
"Right after that, Mary sat me down for four games without a reason," said Comerford, who still led the Hoyas in scoring last season despite finishing sixth in minutes played.
Despite her poor junior season, Comerford decided that transferring wasn't the answer and, not knowing she would be off the team, elected to return for her senior season.
She has begun playing AAU basketball with former Maryland player Tara Heiss, but it's not the same.
"It might cost Georgetown some money to pay me my scholarship and then not let me play," Comerford said, "but it's costing me my heart."