STILLWATER — Karri Sears called her good friend Miranda Serna at 7:45 Thursday evening.
Sears, the Del City girls basketball coach, was on her way back from a scrimmage at Edmond Santa Fe.
“I was just on the road, and she crossed my mind,” Sears said.
“The phone just kept ringing. It didn't go to voicemail or anything.
“I know that's a strange thing, but something put her on my mind.”
Serna, 36, OSU women's basketball's assistant coach and recruiting coordinator, along with Cowgirls head coach Kurt Budke and two others, died Thursday in a plane crash in central Arkansas. Budke and Serna were on a recruiting trip.
Sears and Serna became close when OSU began recruiting Toni Young, now a junior forward for the Cowgirls.
“From the first time I met her, we just clicked,” Sears said. “If I had a problem, anything with our program, I went to her with advice.”
Young, a preseason All-Big 12 pick, was suspended for the first three games of this season for violating team rules.
“Toni has had her share of problems,” Sears said. “But (Serna) always called me and got me involved.
“Toni just looked up to her. (Serna) treated her just like a daughter.”
Serna was a standout at Eldorado High School in Albuquerque, N.M., where she led the Eagles to a 46-0 record and two straight state titles.
After high school, she played one season at Central Arizona College before transferring to Trinity Valley Community College, where, under Budke, she helped lead the team to the NJCAA national championship in 1996.
She finished her playing career at Houston and, after that, returned to Trinity Valley as an assistant under Budke.
Serna was an assistant coach at Chicago State and Fresno State before joining Budke's staff at Louisiana Tech. She followed him to Oklahoma State, where both have been since 2005.
During her coaching career, Serna has developed a reputation as a great recruiter.
“She was one of the best recruiters in the country,” said New Mexico coach Yvonne Sanchez. “Just an unbelieveable person.”
Yvonne Sanchez is in her first year as New Mexico's head coach, but was an assistant at the school for the last 11 years.
Yvonne Sanchez also played at Eldorado High School, and remembered watching Serna play for the Eagles.
Yvonne Sanchez also remembers intense recruiting battles with Serna. “We were recruiting the same kids that Oklahoma State got a few years ago, and I wouldn't talk to Miranda for a while,” Yvonne Sanchez said.
“She sent me an email saying she was glad I got the (New Mexico) job, and I sent her one back.
“We eventually sat down and talked, and gave each other a big hug.”
Yvonne Sanchez said Serna's mother, Nettie Herrera, is a New Mexico season-ticket holder.
Jim Littell, OSU's associate head coach who will take over the Cowgirls as interim coach, remembered Serna as a “tireless worker.”
“Our kids are totally devastated,” Littell said. “They love coach Budke and love coach Serna. A lot of the reason they are here is because of those two people.”