Skip Prosser, a Carnegie native and the head men's basketball coach at Wake Forest University, who led the team to its first-ever No. 1 ranking three years ago, died yesterday.
Matt Freed, Post-GazetteWake Forest head coach Skip Prosser watches his team practice in preparation for the NCAA regionals in 2004.
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CreditlineThis picture from the 1966-67 Carnegie High Yearbook depicts the school basketball team, record 3-18. Wake Forest University basketball coach Skip Prosser, then a junior, is second from left in the back row.
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Mr. Prosser, who reportedly had been jogging on the Wake Forest campus early yesterday afternoon, collapsed in his office, according to the Winston-Salem Journal. He was taken to Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, where he died.
George Edward "Skip" Prosser, a graduate of Carnegie High School, where he was a standout football and basketball player, was 56.
Mr. Prosser was the head coach at Xavier University in Cincinnati before going to Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, N.C., in 2001.
"He had the whole package," Jeff Fogelson, the Xavier athletic director who hired Mr. Prosser as the school's head coach, told The Cincinnati Enquirer. "He was who we needed to get. The only other time I was that sure was when I asked my wife to marry me. I just knew.
"He was the kind of coach any human being would want coaching their kids."
"Skip embodied everything that is good about college athletics," said Duquesne University athletic director Greg Amodio, who knew Mr. Prosser at Xavier. "He was a man of high integrity who cared about his players very deeply. He had a great passion for the game of basketball.
"But, at the same time, his true passion was seeing the young men in his program graduate and become leaders and role models in the community. He was a great husband, father and a true friend to all those who were fortunate to know him."
Mr. Prosser strongly considered taking the coaching job at the University of Pittsburgh after Ben Howland left for UCLA following the 2003 season. Wake Forest held onto him, however, with a new 10-year contract, and with students holding almost daily rallies to entice him to stay.
"It was unbelievable," Mr. Prosser told The News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C., in the fall of 2003. "I was struck by that support. There was nothing bad about Pitt, but there was too much good about Wake Forest to leave. To give it all up just to go home [to Pittsburgh] wasn't a good trade-off."
Jamie Dixon became the new Pitt coach.
"Hey, listen, I think [Pitt has] a great coach," Mr. Prosser told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette then. "I know Pitt is better off. I just hope Wake is, too."
Both Pitt and Wake Forest landed in the East Rutherford Regional of the NCAA tournament the next season but did not play each other.
Mr. Prosser's 2004-05 Wake Forest team was a powerhouse. Led by All-American Chris Paul, the Demon Deacons were No. 1 in the polls for part of the season, and some thought they could win the NCAA championship.
The second-seeded Deacons were defeated, however, in the second round in Cleveland, losing to West Virginia, 111-105, in double overtime.
Wake Forest finished 17-17 in 2005-06, losing at Minnesota in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament.
Last season, Wake Forest was 15-16 and lost to Virginia Tech in the second round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.
Mr. Prosser was a 1972 graduate of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, earning a degree in nautical science. He also earned a master's degree from West Virginia University in 1980 in secondary education.
Mr. Prosser, the ACC Coach of the Year in 2003, had a career record of 291-146.
"I don't have a career record," he once said. "The players won those games."
He was 126-68 in six seasons at Wake Forest.
Prior to becoming head coach at Xavier, where he was an assistant under Pete Gillen for eight seasons, Mr. Prosser was head coach for one season at Loyola-Maryland in 1993-94, where he helped to engineer one of the greatest turnarounds in NCAA history.
The season before Mr. Prosser became head coach, Loyola finished 2-25. In 1993-94, the Greyhounds finished 17-13 and advanced to the NCAA tournament.
He is the only coach in NCAA history to take three different schools to the NCAA tournament in his first season at each of those schools.
His teams had graduation rates that far exceeded the average, which was not lost on Wake Forest athletic director Ron Wellman when he hired Mr. Prosser.
"When I started the process, I called the people who I thought knew the best college basketball coaches in the nation," he said at the time. "They all said the same thing about Skip Prosser: 'If you can hire him, you better get him.' Not only is he a great basketball coach, but he's a great person."
"Coaching isn't wins and losses," Mr. Prosser said during his Wake Forest tenure. "It's teaching. That's the reason I got into coaching and the reason I've stayed in coaching."
He is survived by his wife, Nancy, and sons Scott and Mark, who is an assistant coach at Bucknell University.
Funeral plans were incomplete last night.
The Associated Press contributed. Paul Meyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .