OSU Coaches Budke and Serna Live On In Their Former Players
It could be said when a November plane crash took the lives of four, including Oklahoma State Coach Kurt Budke and assistant Miranda Serna, they left a little bit of themselves with each of their players. For one, that means taking to the court every day…
Remembrances don’t follow a formula. A small ribbon can have just as much meaning as a blazer. An empty chair can carry more weight than a packed gym. And a letter can be something to cling on to.
Coach Budke sent one to Ally Clardy this summer, writing how proud he was to see the coach she had become. But even more importantly, the person she had become. She’s been tearing apart her room for that piece of paper…
“He was the biggest reason I came. He felt like a dad. I knew that each coach on that staff was a part of a family.”
Clardy was never a star on Oklahoma State’s women’s basketball team. She found a different niche. Current Coach Jim Littell saw it as early as her sophomore year.
“She was intense, she was directing people, she knew what we were doing. She always had the schemes down, she always had the game plan down.”
Coach Clardy finished her undergrad work at OSU in the spring of 2010. She was staying around Stillwater to work towards an advanced degree. Stillwater High School needed some help: an assistant to the varsity coach, and in charge of the JV. Coach Karl Treat asked OSU coaches Budke and Serna for a recommendation, and the position was hers.
“A lot of the things that we say or hear her saying in practice I’ve heard when I’ve watched their practices up there,” said Treat.
“And everybody talked about the relentless effort and work and she has a lot of the positives and the c’mon now and just the energy that you would always see when she was at a practice there.”
Clardy initially just wanted to stay involved in basketball. She loves the sport so much, her players call her out for smiling on the court. The gym at Stillwater high school might fit a couple hundred in the seats that sit high above the court. Gallagher Iba Arena it is not. What it is is a basketball court. Something Ally Clardy spent a lot of time on, in practice and games.
“I just already know because we’ve probably already been through it, or I’ve seen someone similar going through it. So I already really know, they taught me this. It’s not so much what they would do, it’s like I already know.”
Then a small, one engine Piper plane went down in the Arkansas forest in mid-November.
“The one thing they didn’t teach me is how to cope with this. And that’s the hardest thing. Anything that happens in my life I’m like ‘Psh, already been through this, they taught me how to deal with this.’ And this I’m like ‘Hold up you straight up left and didn’t teach me how to feel better about you being gone or people getting taken from you like that cause they’re family.’”
Since that day in November, a notebook’s been drafted into service at Clardy’s house. It’s a place to store her thoughts…what she might tell her team about Coaches Budke and Serna. Until she’s ready to share them, it’s showing, instead of telling.
“Inspiring. And that’s what I try to do for my girls now because when the gym’s dull or they’re tired I try to pick them up because Coach Serna was the best at that. And Coach Budke never accepted anything but our best.”
Still, Coach Clardy can’t escape feeling like she’s back at the arena when she steps out on to the wooden court.
“This is what I think about most. They taught me everything.
I think it might be harder on me if I was doing something else because I don’t know how you carry them on, or I would have to dig pretty deep to figure out how to honor them the way I feel like I should.”
Coach Budke’s and Coach Serna’s lives have ended, so the search for a letter goes on. And Ally Clardy stands on the sideline, coaching, teaching, and honoring.
For more, you can find my storify on the tragedy here. Storify is a collection of articles, video, tweets, and other media on a topic.