- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 26, 2007

Wake Forest basketball coach Skip Prosser died today of an apparent heart attack in Winston-Salem, N.C. He was 56.

Prosser was jogging when he collapsed and was rushed to Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.

Affable and erudite, Prosser spent 14 years as a head coach at Loyola, Xavier and Wake Forest.

He was a renaissance man coaching college basketball, said Loyola athletic director Joe Boylan, who gave Prosser his first Division I job in 1993. He was just unique. Were not going to see his likes again. He just had a special gift.

Prosser went 291-146 as a college coach and reached nine NCAA tournament appearances. But he was just as well known throughout college basketball for his wit, wisdom and extensive vocabulary, all of which he employed regardless of his audience.

His style was a byproduct of a diverse background. A Pittsburgh native with tufts of blond hair, Prosser graduated from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy with a degree in nautical science in 1972. He later spent more than a decade as a high school coach and history teacher before moving to Xavier as an assistant.

While at Loyola, he would frequently swap quotes with Boylan, often preferring the insight of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

He would say Nothing worthwhile in life is ever done without enthusiasm, Boylan said. When they were struggling in the ACC, it was Thomas Paine and Dickens It was the best of times, it was the worst of times and These are the times that try mens souls. He would talk to his team and drop in one of those things and sometimes guys would think What the hell is he talking about? Once they realized it, they saw he was trying to give them perspective.

He remained close with several friends from his one season at Loyola, including lacrosse coach Dave Cottle. Now at Maryland, Cottle recalled Prosser as a first-class human being.

Skip could tell you things you didnt like, but you still liked him; Not many people can do that, Cottle said. He had a great sense of humor. He understood athletics, and more importantly understood people. Im sick for his family and his coaching staff and his kids. Theres a big void.

Cottle would often visit Prosser after Wake Forest played at Maryland, but their friendship was cemented at Loyola. Prosser inherited a 2-25 team at a place thought to be a coaching graveyard. In response to the challenge, Cottle said Prosser placed a sign in his office that read You have to eat an elephant one bite at a time.

The Greyhounds proceeded to go 17-13 and earn the schools only NCAA tournament berth before Prosser left for a seven-year stint at Xavier.

Prosser then energized a sometimes tepid fan base at Wake Forest, helping to create Tie Dye Nation and sending fans of the occasionally overlooked Tobacco Road school into a frenzy with frenetic teams featuring future NBA stars Josh Howard and Chris Paul. He also earned the respect of his fellow coaches while revitalizing the Demon Deacons.

Skip was a great competitor and a great coach,” Maryland coach Gary Williams said. “His teams were always well prepared and well coached, but he was someone who was your friend on and off the court and always conducted himself as a class act following the game no matter the outcome.

“College basketball and the ACC will miss him because of what he gave back to the game.

Wake Forest reached the regional semifinal in 2004, then was a fixture in the top 10 the next season before a stunning second-round loss to West Virginia. Prossers team missed the NCAA tournament the last two seasons, and this years 15-16 mark was his first losing record since 1995-96.

Yet he will be remembered more for his on-court success, and greater still for his keen insight on a wide array of issues.

The game was I think so much better that he was in it, Boylan said. He was as competitive as they get, he was feisty, but at the end of the day he had everything in perspective.

Prosser is survived by his wife, Nancy, and two sons, Scott and Mark.



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