Stillwater News Press

Sports Columns

November 18, 2011

Day: Loss of Budke a shock to all

STILLWATER, Okla. — Shock, anger, sadness.

Friday morning’s news of the plane crash that killed Oklahoma State women’s basketball coach Kurt Budke, assistant coach Miranda Serna and two others brought those emotions and others to Stillwater residents and the far-flung Oklahoma State University family.

Ten months after honoring the 10th anniversary of the January 2001 plane crash that claimed 10-members of OSU’s men’s basketball team and its entourage the Oklahoma State nation is overwhelmed with grief once again.

Budke, 50, and Serna, 36, were on a recruiting trip to Arkansas when their single-engine plane crashed in rugged terrain about 45 miles west of Little Rock, Ark. The plane’s pilot, former state Sen. Olin Branstetter, 82, and his wife, Paula, also died in the crash.

It was impossible to not be a Kurt Budke fan.

He loved God, his family and basketball. He made strangers feel like longtime friends. He turned OSU’s struggling women’s basketball program into a contender and a regular visitor to post-season tournaments.

Last year, Budke stayed positive as his young team struggled. He stayed positive and taught the team how to play and win together. His words and deeds worked as the team reached the postseason NIT tournament and appeared poised to make another run at the NCAA tournament this season.

Oklahoma State University President Burns Hargis said Budke and Serna mentored their athletes more than coached them. Coaching is more than developing a game plan. Budke and Serne helped their players develop life skills.

Former OSU player Megan Byford said Budke cared about his players.

“God was first, family was second and basketball was third,” Byford said.

Oklahoma State men’s basketball coach Travis Ford said he and Budke talked basketball almost daily and Budke often would watch some of the men’s team’s practice before heading off to a Cowgirls practice.

Retired pastor of Stillwater’s First United Methodist Church Stan Warfield said Budke made everyone he talked to feel important. “Coach Budke never met a stranger,” he said.

Serna was a top recruiter and a developing basketball coach. She was the first-person in her family to earn a college degree and had worked with Budke at Louisiana Tech. The pair came to Oklahoma State together in 2005.

The tragedy provided a cold slap of realism to the Oklahoma State campus and Stillwater on Friday. The community had been giddy about the No. 2 ranked Oklahoma State football team.

All that paled Friday as the Oklahoma State family adjusted to the new reality.

Hargis said it best.

“It’s our worst nightmare,” Hargis said in a Friday morning news conference. “The entire OSU family is very, very close indeed, to lose anyone, and especially these two individuals who were incredible life forces in our family, is worse beyond words.”

Day is sports editor for the Stillwater NewsPress.

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