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Jim Littell will miss Kurt Budke as a boss — and buddy

Jim Littell knew Kurt Budke, the former Cowgirl basketball coach who was among the four killed on that single-engine plane last week. The man was both Littell's boss and buddy, so he just talked about his friend.

by Jenni Carlson Published: November 21, 2011

“He gets to Bruce (Erickson, director of player development) and slaps him upside the head. I look over and Bruce's glasses are sitting like this.”

Littell tilted his own glasses to the side as laughter rippled around Gallagher-Iba.

Megan Byford, another former Cowgirl, saw that kind of goofiness out of Littell all the time. Of course, he was just following Budke's lead.

“They're too alike,” Byford said. “It's kind of scary.”

They told crazy stories about their kids. They pulled practical jokes like hiding behind doors and jumping out to scare people. They fed off each other.

“They're like a couple frat brothers,” Byford said. “They were ornery, but they were like dads to us.”

Littell and Budke didn't always get along, mind you. A few years back, the Cowgirls were playing Texas A&M, a squad that presses and pushes, harasses and hounds, and they were struggling against the Aggies.

Littell came up with an idea.

“Hey, Coach,” he said to Budke. “We've got to run a backdoor. We've got to relieve some pressure.”

Budke called it, and the Cowgirls threw the ball out of bounds.

Later in the game, Erickson suggested that they run the backdoor again but this time to the left instead of the right.

Budke called it, and again, the Cowgirls threw the ball out of bounds.

Budke quickly called timeout. In the coaches' huddle, Littell asked Budke what he was going to tell the players.

“I have nothing to say to the girls,” he said, “but if you two geniuses ever call for another backdoor this year, I'm taking you outside and whipping your (backside).”

I have no idea how good Littell will be with X's and the O's, though his 418-61 record at Seward County Community College in Kansas makes me think he'll do just fine. I have no clue if Littell will switch up the offense or run a different defense.

But really, coaching these Cowgirls will be more about knowing how to handle the emotions, the tears and the sorrows and the meltdowns. Those are bound to come at times both expected and unexpected.

Littell, though, has managed these early days with grace and poise.

“He is going to do an unbelievable job,” former Cowgirl Ally Clardy said. “Coach Budke couldn't have left this program in better hands.”

Anyone who was listening Monday afternoon could tell as much when Jim Littell stood at a microphone and told us about his friend, Kurt Budke.