Ten months after Oklahoma State commemorated the 10th anniversary of the Jan. 2001 plane crash that killed 10 members of its men's basketball traveling party, the university has endured another similarly horrifying tragedy.
Oklahoma State women's basketball coach Kurt Budke and assistant coach Miranda Serna died during a recruiting trip Thursday when their small plane crashed in Perry County, Ark. The pilot and the only other passenger aboard the plane also were killed.
Budke, a 50-year-old native of Salina, Kan., transformed an Oklahoma State program that went winless in Big 12 play during his debut season six years ago into a perennial NCAA tournament contender. The Cowboys earned NCAA bids three times in the past five years, making their second-ever Sweet 16 appearance in 2008.
Serna, a former player under Budke at Trinity Community College, joined her ex-coach's staff at Louisiana Tech and stayed with him when he made the move to Stillwater in 2005. The New Mexico native served as Oklahoma State's recruiting coordinator and was known for her tireless efforts on the recruiting trail.
Oklahoma State has canceled the two games its women's basketball team was supposed to host against Grambling State on Saturday and Texas-Arlington on Sunday. Associate head coach Jim Littell will take over as interim head coach whenever the school decides to resume its season.
"The Oklahoma State family is devastated by this tragedy," Oklahoma State president Burns Hargis said Friday in the statement. "Our hearts and prayers go out to the families of Kurt Budke, Miranda Serna and the other victims."
No school should have to endure a tragedy of this nature, but it's especially unfair that it's happening at Oklahoma State again. One of the school's three charter planes traveling back from a men's basketball game at Colorado crashed in 2001, killing 10 members of the Cowboys' traveling party including freshman guard Nate Fleming and junior guard Dan Lawson.
Former Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton carried the burden of navigating his program through some dark days in the wake of that crash. Sadly, it will be Littell who has a similar responsibility this time.