Commentary: “The Four” Made Impact Beyond Expectations
Strategy is just a small part of the job description for coaches. They draw up the plays, but they’re also motivators, tutors, therapists, and confidantes for many of their players. Beyond the court, they also serve as inspirational figures and role models.
So, when a plane carrying Oklahoma State University Women’s Basketball Head Coach Kurt Budke and Assistant Coach Miranda Serna fell from the sky Thursday afternoon, the team, and those around it lost two who did more than masterfully write plays on a whiteboard.
There’s plenty of time to figure out what went wrong. Questions of whether coaches Budke and Serna should have been in that plane can be answered later. The moment now demands an appreciation of their work.
Since early Friday morning, there’s been talk about how great of a coach Kurt Budke was. I mean, Oklahoma State wasn’t the first basketball program where he found success. At Louisiana Tech, he compiled an 80-16 record, leading the Lady Techsters to the NCAA Tournament in all three seasons there.
Miranda Serna joined his staff for his last year at Tech and then made the jump to Stillwater when Budke took the job as Cowgirls head coach. Before that, Coach Budke entered the National Junior College Athletic Association Hall of Fame as the youngest coach ever inducted.
Coaches can be great with X’s and O’s. They can tell players what to do, where to go, how to play,but they can’t be great coaches if there’s no trust. Kurt Budke was a great coach. His players don’t talk about him as an authority figure. He was part of everyone’s family. Kurt Budke had a lot of weddings to attend.
Ally Clardy, a former player for Budke, told me she couldn’t wait to be able to point to the television and show her children her coach. She would have said, “Hey, I know you don’t think I’m very cool, but I used to play for him.” Clardy’s had a bunch of coaches in her life. Yet it’s Coach Budke who she most wanted to show to her children.
Miranda Serna was a great recruiter. You don’t develop that reputation by ‘selling’ Oklahoma State to prospects. You develop relationships. You follow up. You actually care. Once you do that, there’s nothing to sell. The recruit sees the effort, the deep commitment you have, and they come to the school because they know that as a person, you’re not faking it.
It’s important to remember there were two others on that plane too: Former Oklahoma state Senator Olin Branstetter and his wife Paula. They were strong supporters of both arenas of Oklahoma State University, athletics and academics. The OSU community lost two who have given students a chance to go to college through their scholarships, and helped send the women’s basketball program higher.
In death, we as humans tend to remember the best of someone, obscuring the less flattering aspects. After talking to a handful of people associated with the basketball program, it became clear that wasn’t happening here.
There wasn’t anything bad to hide about any of them.