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|07-26-2007, 11:14 PM||#1|
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WF and Pittsburgh Native Prosser Dies
Wake Forest's Prosser dies at 56
By JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
Friday, July 27, 2007
News of Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser's death left his colleagues stunned and the college basketball world shaken.
Prosser, a Carnegie native who nearly became the Pitt coach in 2003, died Thursday of an apparent heart attack after a noon jog in Winston Salem, N.C., the university said. He was 56.
He was found slumped on his office couch and unresponsive by director of basketball operations Mike Muse, Wake Forest athletics director Ron Wellman said. Medical personnel performed CPR and used a defibrillator on Prosser, who was taken to Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center and pronounced dead at 1:41 p.m.
Wellman said he was unaware of any previous health issues for Prosser, calling his death "a devastating loss" during a news conference last night.
"Because of his strength, we'll be able to go on and we'll be just fine eventually," Wellman said. "We're not right now. We're all suffering right now."
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon heard the news at the AAU Super Showcase at the Disney World Complex in Orlando, Fla., where several coaches had gathered.
Dixon and Robert Morris coach Mike Rice were sitting near Prosser's son, Mark, an assistant coach at Bucknell, when Prosser received the telephone call. He and Bucknell head coach Pat Flannery quickly left the gymnasium.
"He turned white as a ghost and I saw tears," Rice said. "We all knew something was terribly wrong."
"We saw the whole Bucknell staff, their reaction," Dixon said. "We could just see that something was wrong.
"I saw coach Flannery and Mark running out of the gym. It was right by us. A couple minutes later, the word had spread. Everybody was just looking at each other in disbelief and shock. Only if you're here can you understand. Everybody is around the gym. You're sitting there, facing each coach. Everybody is very visible. Everybody is walking around here in a daze."
Prosser, who led Wake Forest to its first No. 1 ranking three years ago, compiled a 291-146 overall record in 15 seasons at Loyola (Md.), Xavier and Wake Forest. He was at Wake Forest for the past seven season.
He is the only coach to take three schools to the NCAA Tournament in his first season at each school. He also coached high school basketball at Linsly (W.Va.) Institute and Wheeling (W.Va.) Central Catholic from 1971-1984.
Dixon, who was hired at Pitt only after Prosser turned down the job when Ben Howland left for UCLA, spoke briefly with Prosser on Wednesday night.
"We didn't have a long conversation," he said. "He had just got in on a late flight, a red-eye, and then flew out (yesterday) morning to Winston-Salem. When you're just with somebody, see him and talk with him, everybody is looking at each other in disbelief.
"He was a tremendous guy. You can't find anybody who has a bad thing to say about Skip Prosser in this profession, and that's a hard thing to say."
The news hit Dixon hard. Last year, his sister, Army coach Maggie Dixon, died suddenly from a heart arrhythmia, just hours after Dixon had visited with her. Prosser came to Pittsburgh in 2005for the Pitt-Notre Dame football game, and visited with Jamie Dixon, his parents and his sister.
"It's also in seeing a person the night before," Dixon said. "Obviously, it's different but there's still some ... the closeness was still there between coach Prosser and myself.
"I knew him more as just a well-respected coach, but an even better person. He did things the right way. Everybody had great things to say about him. I was an assistant and he was a head coach (when they first met nine years ago), and he went out of his way to visit with me first. He was just a good person, outgoing, friendly and kind.
"We often talked about different things, joked about different things. He had a great sense of humor. We could laugh about anything and everything."
Born George Edward Prosser, he was true to his western Pennsylvania roots. He often wore Pittsburgh hats and shirts.
"Skip was the kind of guy who if you didn't know him once you met him, you felt like you knew him forever," Rice said. "He was one of the good guys in this profession. He was loved and respected and his death is a huge loss for our profession."
St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt, who was an assistant with Prosser at Xavier, was visibly upset by the news.
"I just can't talk about it, now," he said. "I need some time."
Duquesne University athletic director Greg Amodio, who was one of Prosser's best friends and a former associate AD at Xavier, said he spoke yesterday to Dino Gaudio, an assistant at Wake Forest. The two men cried on the phone.
Prosser helped Amodio get the Duquesne athletic director job.
Amodio and Prosser spent many good times together at Xavier, including Hap's Old Irish Pub in Cincinnati.
"Skip was the kind of guy you could sit down and have a beer with and just talk," Amodio said. "He loved Hap's because it was a place where he could stay (in the background). We had some good laughs there. Skip was competitive as hell, but he also always cared about his players and helping them be successful in basketball and in life.
"He also was a great family man. He cared about his wife and sons. They meant the world to him."
Duquesne coach Ron Everhart recalled how Prosser put in a good word with Amodio when Everhart was interviewing for the Dukes job.
"He was a really, really good person," Everhart said. "He had a great relationship with Amodio and took time to reach out and help others in our profession. You never forget people who do things like that for you."
"Skip was so proud of his Pittsburgh roots, especailly his Carnegie roots. He always made it a point to bring up Pittsburgh."
Arizona State coach and Penn Hills native Herb Sendek was in Las Vegas when he heard of Prosser's death.
"We are all in great shock right now," he said. "We are feeling a sense of great loss. Whenever I was with Skip our conversation would always turn to Pittsburgh and its sports. He loved being from Pittsburgh. You won't find anyone in our coaching fraternity who doesn't have a good thing to say about Skip Prosser. He was what is good about our profession."
The news of Prosser's death stunned ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas, a former Duke University star who co-hosted a Coaches Vs. Cancer event with Prosser in Winston-Salem last month. Bilas had just received photos from the black-tie event in the mail Tuesday.
"Skip's been a good friend for a long time," Bilas said. "He's not only been an outstanding coach and a great teacher but a great friend. It's shocking. It cuts your heart out."
Word of Prosser's death spread quickly throughout the college basketball coaching fraternity. Bilas said one of Prosser's "last selfless acts" should produce "heartwarming" memories. Prosser recently returned from Kuwait, where he coached a team of U.S. servicemen at a basketball tournament.
"Skip's always been a rock of a human being, especially on the emotional side," Bilas said. "He was a giver and gave of his time and effort. Skip was one of the guys who I said gets it. He was a great competitor, not a good one. Even after a game, he was the one who seemed to have his head on straight."
Prosser is survived by his wife Nancy and sons Scott, 28, and Mark, 27.
|07-29-2007, 10:11 AM||#2|
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Re: WF and Pittsburgh Native Prosser Dies
Prayers to his family. He was a class act of a coach.
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|07-29-2007, 12:44 PM||#3|
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Re: WF and Pittsburgh Native Prosser Dies
He was one of the best coaches, will be hard to replace him
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