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“I came to this league because I wanted to coach against the best, night in and night out,” he once said. “These players that want to come play for us want to play against the best. That’s how we go out and recruit.”

A Salina, Kan., native, Budke was a married father of three, including a daughter currently at Oklahoma State.

“I looked at him almost as a mentor,” Ford said. “I can’t tell you how many times I would pick up the phone and ask him how he ran his zone offense. He’d come down to the office or I’d go up to his and we would sit and talk.

“Just somebody who I had the utmost respect for as a person and a husband and father and obviously as a coach. In this profession, the way it gets crazy at times, he had everything in perspective.”

Ford called Budke “a complete father figure” for his team.

“It’s his personality, his greatest strength,” Ford said. “He just really had great relationships with the girls and could communicate with them.”

Budke played basketball for Barton County (Kan.) Junior College and graduated from Washburn in 1984 with a bachelor’s degree in physical education. After some early small-college jobs, he built the JUCO powerhouse at Trinity Valley before hooking up with Louisiana Tech, once one of the top programs in the women’s game.

“When I first went there and got into the gym office, I saw eight players in the outer office hanging around, enjoying themselves and relaxing,” said Leon Barmore, who made nine Final Four trips with the Lady Techsters and also hired Budke.

“This was a player’s coach. The players loved to play for him. He presented an environment which was relaxing. He made you feel warm and at ease, that always stood out to me.”

After playing for Budke, Serna went on to finish her playing career at Houston before returning to Trinity Valley to start her coaching career under Budke. They won another JUCO national title together in 1999 before Serna gained more experience as an assistant at three other schools.

Budke hired her again for his final year at Louisiana Tech, then brought her along to Stillwater.

Miranda was a really great person,” said Carlene Mitchell, another of Budke’s former players from Trinity Valley who’s now the coach at UC Santa Barbara.

“She worked hard. She believed in him. That’s why she stayed. … She had some opportunities to look at some other jobs, but she wanted to bring in players and help him win at Oklahoma State.”

Budke moved to Louisiana Tech when Kim Mulkey left to become the coach at Baylor, where she has won a national championship and currently has the No. 1 team in the country.

“It just hits home with all of us in this profession that truly we just coach a game,” Mulkey said, adding that she turned to her son and started crying when she heard the news.

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