Kurt Budke Born: June 3, 1961 (Salina, KS)
Graduated: Salina Sacred Heart High School, 1979; Barton County Community College, 1981; Washburn University, 1983; Wichita State University (M.S.), 1985
Died: November 17, 2011
He had numerous moments like it on the basketball court. Over the years, the number of victories must have piled up and morphed into something of a blur. But that night in early January of 2008 was something truly special.
The game was sold out and the crowd on hand was especially rambunctious. The players were ready and so was he.
Dressed to the nines in a blazer that can only be described as the brightest shade of orange on the planet, Salina native Kurt Budke saw his Oklahoma State Cowgirls take down their in-state rival and sixth ranked team in the country, the Oklahoma Sooners, in Stillwater. His team played a masterful game; one that will always be remembered by the OSU faithful.
The orange blazer was a bold choice of attire that night, considering the Cowgirls were underdogs in their own building, but that was Budke’s style. Bold, confident, and highly successful.
Budke grew up with the game of basketball and success seemed to follow him everywhere he stepped on the hardwood. In high school, Budke was named the MVP of the 1979 3A state tournament as he led the Salina Sacred Heart Knights to the state title. He continued that success at Barton County Community College, where he earned All-Conference honors in 1981, and Washburn University, where he graduated in 1984.
Budke was an outstanding player, but like so many great coaches, his true greatness came out while on the sidelines. He began his coaching career at Allen County Community College in Iola, Kansas, in 1991 where he posted a record of 47-15 in two seasons prior to moving on to Trinity Valley (TX) Community College.
At Trinity, Budke transformed from a great coach to a living legend, leading the Lady Cardinals to six consecutive national championship game appearances in seven seasons. During his tenure at Trinity, Budke’s teams won an amazing ninety-three percent of their games, including four national championships.
Fresh off his success at the junior college level, Budke made the jump to the Division I level, ending up at Oklahoma State University after a stint as an assistant and head coach at Louisiana Tech. The Cowgirls, mired in Big XII mediocrity, needed a savior and Budke was the man for the job.
A rough first season in Stillwater did not deter Budke and by his second season in Stillwater, the Cowgirls were in the NCAA tournament. Budke made March basketball a regular occurrence for OSU fans as his teams made postseason play each season from 2007-2011.
A consistent winner at each of his coaching stops, Budke will be remembered for much more than his fiery, orange blazer. He was a man who left basketball better than when he found it. He coached with passion, confidence, and love, and made sure to instill those qualities in each of his players as well.
Sorely missed, but remembered forever. Kind of like that orange blazer…
Coach Budke tragically perished in a plane accident in November of 2011. He is being honored posthumously.