Budke Had A Profound Impact On Clardy

Monday afternoon's memorial service in Gallagher-Iba Arena for the four who perished in Thursday's tragic plane crash was a celebration of how those four touched the lives of the people at Oklahoma State.

The ceremony was a beautiful and touching remembrance of OSU women's basketball coaches Kurt Budke and Miranda Serna, as well as, OSU alums Olin and Paula Branstetter.

Person after person recalled how these individuals impacted their lives, ranging from athletic director Mike Holder talking from a coach's perspective about how coaches want to be remember to former Cowgirls emotional testimonies of how Budke and Serna changed their lives.

Following the ceremony, former OSU point guard Ally Clardy provided one of the most touching portraits of Budke.

Clardy was the first player to commit to play for Budke and Serna at OSU. They had just wrapped up their first season at OSU, an 0-16 campaign in league play, but there was something about Budke that drew Clardy to OSU. And during a summer camp at OSU, Budke asked Clardy a question she has never forgotten.

"Basketball is my life and something I should have said a long time ago, the biggest memory I have of coach Budke is when I came to camp as his first recruit and he was sitting in the middle of the coach in his rolling chair and he said, ‘Come here, come here,' I was still in high school and he looked at me and said, ‘Ally girl, I really need to ask you something,' and I was like, ‘Yea, coach?' He asked, ‘Do you love basketball?'

"That hits home to me more than it ever has. I told him, ‘I love basketball,' I do love basketball but I know now what he meant by that. Those words are so powerful to me and it seriously shook me to the core when he said that to me and I was just a junior in high school."

That love of basketball and devotion shown by Budke led to an amazing turnaround as Clardy and that first recruiting class became a part of four of the most successful seasons in school history from 2007-10.

Clardy, the first player to sign with Budke at OSU, was also the first former player to learn of the tragic crash in the Arkansas forest that took the lives of their beloved coaches.

"I was actually the one, I found out at 3 a.m. I had to call Megan Byford and Taylor Hardeman and Andrea Riley, who is overseas. (Riley's) one of my very best friends. We came in as freshmen together and were roommates all four years. I had to tell Andrea, she's struggling and she wants to be here with us," she said. "I was actually in Texas when I found out and I was hurting because I wanted to be with my girls and yesterday when we all got together, my heart hurt a little less because I was with the people who know everything that we went through. Andrea is hurting because she wants to be here and she is one of the most important people who needs to be here. I hurt for her."

Clardy found out the devastating news from Budke's neighbor, who called her the second she found out. And one of the reasons she found out so quickly was because that neighbor's daughter played basketball for Clardy, an assistant coach for the Stillwater High School girl's team.

And that coaching position at SHS was just another example of how Budke impacted Clardy's life.

"When I graduated I was like, ‘What am I going to do? I need my basketball fix,' so coach Budke and coach (Jim) Littell got my in the position to coach at Stillwater High School with coach (Carl) Treat this year and all of last year … They know how much I love basketball and wanted to be around it so they helped make another one of my dreams come true."

And those dreams that were realized by Clardy and the rest of the current and former Cowgirl players make the loss of their coach all the more painful.

"I'm hurting, I know we're all hurting. It just doesn't seem real" Clardy said. "I just pray that they went in peace and they know how much we loved them and how much we are going to continue to succeed for them because they showed us best how to live our lives and how to overcome obstacles. They taught us perseverance, hard work and love."

"When you play here for four years, that's your family," Clardy continued. "That's my family. Those girls are my sisters and the biggest thing for me is coach Budke brought me here and introduced me to these people who will be in my wedding. They're my best friends and without him fulfilling my dream of becoming a college basketball player, I never would have met the best people I've ever had in my entire life. It's hard to think that someday when I have kids, I won't be able to show them who I played for on TV. I envisioned that. I envisioned being like, ‘Hey, you might not think your mom is very cool but I used to play for him.' We'll just have to whip out some old game film and relive that moment for everyone."

Clardy said the pain is very real now for her and everyone else who had the pleasure of knowing Budke and Serna and she put out a challenge to OSU supporters because, at this point, the Cowgirls need support more than ever.

She said the crowd on Saturday against Coppin State for the first game back needs to be there for the girls as they try to recover from the devastation and heartache.

"I hope it's unreal. I hope it beats our sellout crowd when we beat OU," Clardy said. "I hope people are outside lined up. I think it will help the girls, I really do. I hope everyone comes. I'll give away tickets, I'd buy them all, I want people here. I think that the girls need it and, through the fans, I think they can do it. I think they can win."

Even with all the pain now and the uncertainty ahead, Clardy said the Cowgirls will remain strong because that is how Budke and Serna would have wanted it and Clardy said she knows she made the right choice to play for them then and she wouldn't do it any other way.

"I was the first one to jump on board and I would never take it back," Clardy said. "It was the best decision I've ever made and OSU is truly a special place."

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