John Klein: Kurt Budke's enthusiasm, energy will be missed
BY JOHN KLEIN Senior Sports Columnist
Monday, November 21, 2011
11/21/11 at 4:55 AM
Find more information about the crash and reaction, including a video of OSU President Burns Hargis’ press conference and a video of students’ reactions.
Go to John Klein's Blog Original Print Headline: Budke's enthusiasm, energy will be missed
Oklahoma State coaches Kurt Budke and Miranda Serna were loved by many.
Many more feel the pain and sadness of another unspeakable tragedy for Oklahoma State athletics.
When folks started to learn of the deaths of Budke, Serna and two others in a small plane crash, the awful memories of a similar day 10 years ago flooded back.
Now, OSU, the state of Oklahoma and folks that knew and loved those people on that plane will deal with this latest tragedy in their own way.
In this fall's college football season filled with so many uplifting moments, the state of Oklahoma has also dealt with a series of tragedies.
Oklahoma linebacker Austin Box died in May. Three members of Tulsa's 2007 football team have died in the past 10 months - Wilson Holloway in February, George Clinkscale in September and Anthony Germany in October.
While the Cowboys, Sooners and Golden Hurricane thrilled fans, there were those tragic moments.
OSU is dealing with unfathomable loss after the second plane crash in 10 years that claimed the lives of those associated with the basketball teams.
OSU President Burns Hargis spoke for all Oklahomans when he said this latest crash is an "incredibly devastating event. It is our worst nightmare."
To be honest, we never really got over the 2001 plane crash that killed 10 members of the OSU basketball traveling group after a game in Colorado. We moved on but did not forget.
Now, we will gather once again on Monday to mourn the loss of Budke and Serna, who were on a recruiting trip to Arkansas when the plane crashed.
OSU athletic director Mike Holder said on Friday that the loss of Budke and Serna had left everyone "beyond saddened."
Budke was a much beloved figure on the OSU campus and in Stillwater. He was active in not only athletics but in a handful of civic and church groups.
He had engineered a rather remarkable revival of OSU women's basketball.
The Cowgirls have gone to five straight postseason tournaments and three NCAA Tournaments.
Of course, all of that followed that first season of 0-16 in the Big 12 Conference.
Budke dealt with that first season like he did everything in his coaching career.
He told people that things would get better. He tackled the challenges with his endless energy and enthusiasm, two virtues of his that spread to everyone around him.
His teams played with that same kind of enthusiasm and fun.
Teams almost always take on the personality of their coach.
OSU women's basketball certainly became a mirror of Budke. Smiling. Determined.
The Cowgirls didn't win all of their games, but they never lacked for energy and effort.
And, OSU women's basketball seemed to have fun with Budke as coach.
But Budke's influence went far beyond the women's basketball program.
In any major college athletic department, there is a bond among the coaches. It is stronger at some schools than others.
At Oklahoma State, where the 2001 plane crash brought the school together in a collective grief, coaches of all sports seemed to be on the same page.
Budke was a regular at men's basketball games and could often be spotted at baseball, football and other games.
It wasn't unusual to see OSU coaches from all sports at women's basketball games. OSU football and men's basketball players were regulars.
Budke helped bridge that gap between sports. He loved all sports and made a point of going and supporting all OSU teams.
When Budke got the job seven years ago, at his first press conference, he said he had grown up in Kansas and loved OSU basketball.
He said all the right things that first day on the job. His basketball coaching idol was Henry Iba. He admired the coaching of Eddie Sutton, then the head coach at OSU.
And he planned to bring the Cowgirls back to the NCAA Tournament.
Assistant Jim Littell, who will take over as coach of the Cowgirls and a longtime friend of Budke, said he remembers Budke "walked into that press conference and his zeal for Oklahoma State was incomparable."
Folks said he really did appreciate coaching at a school with such a rich basketball history and in a building considered one of the true shrines in college basketball.
Budke leaves us far too early, and for that we are sad.
There will eventually be another memorial of the tragedy and triumph that has marked OSU basketball.
But, just like after the 2001 tragedy, life will get back to normal. Or, what passes for normal.
Oklahoma State will play football and basketball games. The Cowboys and Cowgirls will win some games and they'll lose some, too.
Budke will be remembered for the enthusiasm and excitement he brought to life every day.
That will be his legacy.