Oklahoman Story Says Littell is the Man for the Job at OSU
KSCB News - November 22, 2011 6:42 am
Friday morning, Oklahoma State associate head coach Jim Littell had to make a heartbreaking announcement to the Cowgirls about coach Kurt Budke and assistant Miranda Serna, who were killed in a plane crash in central Arkansas on Thursday.
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Another tragic plane crash involving OSU basketball
Littell was assigned the immense task of taking over the Cowgirls as interim coach, forcing him to assume roles of counselor, parent, friend and instructor, all while dealing with his own painful grief.
Littell’s coaching resume is impressive. But that isn’t what those who know him say will help him navigate the Cowgirls through this trying time.
“The real Jim will come out even more during this tragedy.”
Tucker Barnard, Stillwater High School‘s football coach who has both of Littell’s sons on his team, doesn’t know Jim Littell the coach. But he does know the man.
“His leadership and the relationship he has with kids is going to be really important,” Barnard said. “The high school kids at Stillwater absolutely love him. His house is a really popular hangout for kids on our football team.
“I’m sure the girls on the basketball team will be able to lean on him and look to him for strength and leadership.”
But beyond that, Littell has to cope with his own pain. His relationship with Budke has been described as brotherly.
Budke hired Littell away from Seward County, which he turned into a junior-college power. He posted a 418-61 record, nine conference titles and the 2002 national championship, the school’s only national title in any sport.
Perhaps most impressive, though, was his home record. Between 1995 and 2004, Littell’s Saints won 135 straight games at home.
“He can coach, and he can recruit,” McFadden said. “He’s a very detailed person … When he got here, he went beyond what other coaches would do, and that’s why he has our school’s only national championship.”
Littell’s Oxford team won the 1981 Class 2A state championship.
But Littell’s success on the court isn’t why he is the perfect person to take over after such a tragedy, his friends say. It is his character and his connection with Oklahoma State.
“There’s not a better person,” said McSpadden, who hired Littell at Seward County in 1991.
“Oklahoma State would be making a mistake if they did not keep him permanently.”
He fought through his statement Friday, describing Budke’s love for Oklahoma State.
“Every day we would bring a recruit in, he would walk them on the court and say ‘Look at this place. Look at this place. I love this place,’” Littell said with his arms raised. “And he meant it from the heart.
“He will not be forgotten, he will not be replaced and I love the man.”
Littell loves the university and his players, too.
“If there’s anybody that can get them there, it will definitely be him.”