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Monday, November 21, 2011
Betty Lennox remembers Kurt Budke

By Michelle Smith

After getting the news that her former coach and mentor Kurt Budke had died in a plane crash, Betty Lennox found herself calling Budke's cell phone. She couldn't allow herself to believe what she had been told.

"It just rang and rang and rang, and then I heard his voice [on the voicemail]," Lennox said. "And that's the thing that really got me."

Oklahoma State is holding a memorial service Monday for Budke, the Cowgirls' women's basketball coach since 2005, and assistant coach Miranda Serna. The two were killed in a plane crash in Arkansas on Thursday, flying out on a recruiting trip. OSU staff and students will gather at Gallagher-Iba Arena for what university spokesman Gary Shutt said Sunday will be a "touching and memorable ceremony."

Lennox, who played for Budke at Trinity Valley Community College in Texas and then Louisiana Tech, now plays for the Tulsa Shock of the WNBA. She didn't need help conjuring her memories. Her emotions raw through a short interview, Lennox made the point several times that Budke was more than a coach to her.

She said she "broke down" when a member of the Shock staff told her of Budke's death.

"He was an excellent coach, but he was also a father figure," Lennox said.

Lennox's relationship with Budke goes back to when she was in high school in Hugo, Okla., recruited by Budke to play at Trinity Valley Community College.

"He not only recruited me, but he molded me and took me up under his wing and treated me like one of his daughters," Lennox said.

The two would win a junior college national championship together in 1997.

Lennox followed Budke to Louisiana Tech, where he initially took a job as the associate head coach and was promoted to head coach in 2002 before being hired by Oklahoma State in 2005.

"He was somebody who kept me in a positive mood," Lennox said. "He directed me and helped me make decisions about my life. Even after I became a professional, he would help me with my contracts, give me financial advice.

"He taught me everything I know."

Lennox, a first-round pick in the 2000 WNBA draft and the league's rookie of the year, said she was still in contact with Budke and would try to call him every month or two. She said it had been a couple of months since she talked with him last.

"He knew every step I had taken and he was so supportive," Lennox said. "He was like a proud father figure. This is very, very tough for me. He means a lot to me."

Lennox is not the only Shock player with a strong connection to Budke. Lennox's teammate, guard Andrea Riley, was Budke's biggest star at Oklahoma State.

Riley is playing overseas in Turkey.

"I know what she's going through," Lennox said. "I know she's devastated. I know she's not in a very good place right now. He was a father figure to her, too."

Lennox said she will dedicate her 2012 season to Budke.

"It's something I should have done a long time ago," she said.