- Associated Press - Saturday, November 19, 2011

TULSA, OKLA. (AP) - It had been 10 years and 10 months since the plane crash that killed 10 people associated with Oklahoma State’s men’s basketball program _ long enough for the healing to begin but recent enough to rush old memories to the surface when news of another plane crash broke.

This time, two coaches from the women’s basketball team had been killed.

“I feel for the Oklahoma State community. How many more tragedies can they endure?” said head coach of top-ranked Baylor, Kim Mulkey.

Kurt Budke, the head coach for the women’s basketball team, and Miranda Serna, his assistant, were killed Thursday when the single-engine plane transporting them on a recruiting trip crashed in steep terrain in Arkansas, the university in Stillwater said. The pilot, 82-year-old former Oklahoma state Sen. Olin Branstetter, and his 79-year-old wife, Paula, also died when the plane sputtered, spiraled out of control and nosedived into the Winona Wildlife Management Area near Perryville, about 45 miles west of Little Rock.

The crash was 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.

For some, the news brought back the emotions felt a decade ago.

“Not a day goes by that I don’t think about one of those guys,” said Eddie Sutton, the OSU men’s basketball coach at the time of the 2001 crash. “It’s emotional, believe me. This brings back a lot of unpleasantness.”

Roger Engelsman, undersheriff for Adams County in Colorado, the site of the first crash, has attended the service held there each year _ a service attended by OSU officials.

“Quite honestly, it takes a lot to surprise me or shock me, but I was just in disbelief,” said Engelsman. “My friends at Oklahoma State are suffering in this fashion again.

“What are the odds of two plane crashes, both affecting the basketball programs?” he said.

After the 2001 crash, the university required that planes used by the school’s sports team undergo safety checks before travel. OSU President Burns Hargis said coaches were not bound by the same rules and that the school left such decisions to their discretion.

“When something like this happens and, God forbid it happened again, we have to pull together as a family. We’ve got to try to do that,” Hargis said at a news conference Friday, as he broke down in tears.

Hargis called Budke “an exemplary leader and man of character,” and credited him with elevating the team in a tough program. Serna, he said, was “an up-and-coming coach and an outstanding role model” for the players. Former Assistant Coach Jim Littell will serve as interim head coach. The team’s games scheduled for Saturday and Sunday were canceled. The university plans to hold a public memorial service Monday at Gallagher-Iba Arena.

Budke turned Oklahoma State’s women’s basketball team into a winner and hoped he’d found the place where he’d coach until he retired. Serna had passed up opportunities to leave his side, staying loyal to the man whom she had helped to win a junior college national championship and then rebuild a big-time college program.

The university hired Budke from Louisiana Tech seven years ago and the Salina, Kan., native compiled a 112-83 record with three trips to the NCAA tournament. This year’s team was 1-0 after defeating Rice on Sunday.

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