— STILLWATER, Okla. — Shortly after the Oklahoma State team opened the season with a 96-60 win over Rice, coach Kurt Budke said he felt privileged to coach at Oklahoma Sate calling it “one of them most special places I’ve ever been a part of.”
Budke talked about how the athletic department was like one big family — a rarity in college sports.
On Thursday afternoon, Oklahoma State lost four members of the family when a 1964-model Piper plane crashed near Perryville, Ark., killing Budke, assistant coach Miranda Serna, Olin and Paula Branstetter.
“This is just a devastating event,” OSU president Burns Hargis said. “It’s our worst nightmare.”
For coaches like Travis Ford, the loss hits home. Ford was not on the staff when a plane crash claimed the lives of 10 members of the men’s basketball team in January 2001.
“This is a difficult day,” Ford said. “Coach Budke was our biggest fan. After the game the other night, he was the first one to text me and congratulate us. He was a complete family man. He loved this team like it was his own. He was a total team player and I looked at him as my mentor.”
The love Budke showed for Oklahoma State was contagious, associate head coach Jim Littell said.
“His zeal for Oklahoma State was uncomparable,” said Littell, who will become the team’s interim head coach. “He loved this place. It was a dream situation for him. He used to bring in recruits and take them to center court and say ‘Look at this place.’ I honestly think he meant it from the heart.”