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Plane crash kills Oklahoma State women's basketball coach

Kurt Budke and his assistant Miranda Serna die in crash of small plane in Arkansas while on recruiting trip. The pilot and his wife are also killed.

November 18, 2011|Staff and wire reports
  • Oklahoma State Coach Kurt Budke, left, sits on the bench next to associate head coach Jim Littell, right, during an exhibition game this fall.
Oklahoma State Coach Kurt Budke, left, sits on the bench next to associate… (Sue Ogrocki / Associated…)

Kurt 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. Miranda Serna, a former assistant coach at Long Beach State, 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.

Having succeeded together, Budke and Serna died together — perishing in a plane crash on a trip aimed at building their team's future.

Budke, the head coach, and 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 said Friday. 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 nose-dived into the Winona Wildlife Management Area about 45 miles west of Little Rock.

There were no survivors.

"This is our worst nightmare. The entire OSU family is very close, very close indeed," OSU President Burns Hargis said at a news conference. "To lose anyone, especially these two individuals who are incredible life forces in our family, it is worse beyond words."

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.

"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, as he broke down in tears.

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

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.

Syracuse coach denies allegations

Syracuse assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine dismissed as "patently false" allegations that he molested two former ball boys for years, and the university chancellor vowed Friday to "do everything in our power to find the truth."

The school has placed Fine on administrative leave

Fine, in his 35th season as an assistant on the Syracuse bench, asked for a quick review and expressed confidence he would be vindicated.

UCLA's David Wear suffers concussion

UCLA sophomore forward David Wear suffered a mild concussion in practice Thursday and is listed as probable for the Bruins' game against Chaminade on Monday in the Maui Invitational.

Sophomore center Anthony Stover, sidelined since Oct. 26 by a shoulder injury, has returned to practice on a limited basis but is listed as questionable for the game against the Silverswords.

— Ben Bolch

A former player for the Bakersfield Condors of the ECHL has dropped claims of religious discrimination against the team and two former coaches, the club announced Friday. Jason Bailey said he was the target of anti-Semitic remarks between 2007 and 2009 and filed suit against the coaches, the team and the Ducks, who were the Condors' parent club at the time the remarks were allegedly made. A spokesman for the Ducks said Bailey voluntarily dismissed the case against the NHL team in May.

— Helene Elliott

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