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“There’s a bigger picture out there and it’s not a basketball game, it puts life in perspective. I feel for the Oklahoma State community, how many more tragedies can they endure?”

The crash is the second major tragedy for the sports program in about a decade. In January 2001, 10 men affiliated with the university’s men’s basketball team died in a Colorado plane crash.

Mitchell has a link to both. In addition to playing for one of Budke’s national championship teams, she was an assistant at Oklahoma State in 2001. She was floored when she heard the news.

“He was just an amazing man,” Mitchell said. “I’m so sick and sad. He helped me get the job out here and was so excited when I got hired. He was screaming into the phone.

“You want to say that Oklahoma State is cursed with those two tragedies.”

Sherri Coale, the coach at rival Oklahoma, remembered Budke as a fantastic coach, a tremendous competitor, a devoted father and husband and a humble but courageous leader of young people.

Texas A&M coach Gary Blair called Serna a rising star in recruiting and Budke his closest friend in the Big 12, with both sharing experience at Louisiana Tech.

“He was a devout family man and the conversation never stopped without us talking about our own kids, not just the players we coached,” Blair said. “Life is precious. We must enjoy it and we must respect it because it can be taken away at any time.”

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Basketball Writer Doug Feinberg in New York contributed to this report.