Memorial at OSU's Gallagher-Iba Arena for Budke and Serna held where it meant the most

The somber occasion brought back memories of the plane crash that killed 10 members of OSU men's basketball traveling party on Jan. 27, 2001. A similar memorial was staged a few days later in Gallagher-Iba.
by Berry Tramel Published: November 22, 2011

The first time Kurt Budke walked into Gallagher-Iba Arena as an Oklahoma State University employee, he turned to Harry Birdwell, the man who hired him, and said, “Can you believe I get to coach here?”

Larry Reece said that when Budke would bring women's basketball recruits to OSU's historic coliseum, he would walk them to midcourt and say, “Look at this place. I love this place. And you will, too.”

Monday, that place Budke loved became the place where he was memorialized.

Budke died Thursday in an Arkansas plane crash that also killed OSU assistant coach Miranda Serna and university boosters Olin and Paula Branstetter, who were piloting the single-engine aircraft.

“We're in this place because they loved this place,” Reece said.

Budke, a Kansan who coached in junior colleges and Louisiana Tech University, became an immediate OSU cheerleader when Birdwell hired him in 2005.

“I felt like he was an OSU kind of guy,” said Birdwell, who now is in private business but was OSU's athletic director from 2002-05. “From the first day, he was a part of us.”

The service was attended by about 6,000, including Gov. Mary Fallin, former OSU men's basketball coach Eddie Sutton, former OSU Presidents James Halligan and David Schmidly, university benefactor T. Boone Pickens and a host of basketball coaches connected with the Big 12 Conference, including Sherri Coale, who headed a 23-person contingent from the University of Oklahoma.

The somber occasion brought back memories of the plane crash that killed 10 members of OSU men's basketball traveling party on Jan. 27, 2001. A similar memorial was staged a few days later in Gallagher-Iba.

“We have been here before,” said Reece, an OSU executive fundraiser and basketball public-address announcer who presided over the service.

Birdwell spoke at the memorial service in 2001. Monday, he sat with OSU staff members in the crowd.


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by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The...
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