Officials with Oklahoma State University confirm that head women's basketball coach Kurt Budke and assistant Miranda Serna have died in a plane crash while on a recruiting trip to Arkansas.
The crash happened in a heavily wooded area near the town of Perryville in central Arkansas Thursday night. The pilot of the single-engine plane and another passenger not affiliated with the school were also killed. They have been identified as former State Senator Olin Branstetter and his wife, Paula.
Budke and Serna were on a recruiting trip.
Oklahoma State Athletic Director Mike Holder released a statement, saying "we are shocked by this terrible loss. Kurt Budke was an incredibly positive influence on his players and was a tremendous coach. He quickly turned our program around and put Cowgirl basketball on the map. Miranda was a tireless worker and great recruiter."
Holder says associate head coach Jim Littell would assume head coaching duties on an interim basis.
OSU President Burns Hargis also released a statement:
"The Oklahoma State family is devastated by this tragedy. Our hearts and prayers go out to the families of Kurt Budke, Miranda Serna and the other victims. Kurt was an exemplary leader and a man of character who had a profound impact on his student-athletes. He was an outstanding coach and a wonderful person. We send our deepest sympathies to his wife, Shelley, and their children, Sara, Alex and Brett. Coach Budke elevated our women's basketball program to new levels of success. He and his staff raised our profile in the nation's toughest conference. Miranda was an up-and-coming coach and an outstanding role model for our young ladies."
OSU counselors were offering assistance to the team and staff on Friday.
Budke had been the head coach of the women's basketball team for the past seven seasons and had led the Cowgirls to postseason appearances in each of the past five seasons, including a second-round showing in the Women's NIT last year and a second round NCAA Tournament appearance in 2010.
The 2010 season saw the Cowgirls win 24 games and climb the polls into the top ten for the first time in program history.
OSU also made the NCAA Tournament in 2008 and 2007, reaching the Sweet 16 during the 2008 tournament. Prior to 2007, the Cowgirls hadn't been to the NCAA Tournament in eleven years and had only seven previous NCAA Tournament appearances in the program's history.
Budke had a career record of 472-and-123 at four schools, including four national championships at Trinity Valley Community College (TX) in the 1990s. He also coached at Allen County Community College in Kansas.
At Oklahoma State, Budke was 119-and-76. He leaves behind a wife and three children.
Serna had also been with the team for seven seasons and had also been an assistant under Budke at Louisiana Tech.
The Cowgirls opened the season Sunday with a 36-point win over Rice in Stillwater and had been preparing for their second game, which was scheduled to be played Saturday night at home against Grambling State.
Holder said that game as well as Sunday's game against Texas-Arlington will not be played.
This is the second time members of an Oklahoma State athletics team have been killed in a plane crash. In January 2001, a plane carrying OSU men's basketball staff and players crashed during a snowstorm in Colorado.
All ten on board died, including players Nate Fleming and Dan Lawson, radio and TV sportscaster Bill Teegins, media relations coordinator Will Hancock, TV and radio engineer Kendall Durfey, director of basketball operations Pat Noyes, trainer Brian Luinstra, student assistant Jared Weiberg and pilots Denver Mills and Bjorn Falstrom.
We will have much more on this devastating news throughout the day here on KTUL.COM and on Tulsa's Channel 8.