Wake Forest Mourns Following Death of Skip Prosser, Basketball Coach and Teacher
By JOEDY McCREARY
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) - Skip Prosser was remembered for more than his coaching.
Wake Forest athletic director Ron Wellman couldn't help but marvel at the coach's knack for routinely using obscure words in their perfect context - "Prosser words," as they were known around campus.
It was, Wellman said, the ultimate reflection of how Prosser viewed himself - as not just a coach but also an educator.
"I can't cite one word. All I can remember is that trait," Wellman said. "He ingratiated himself to so many people - academicians, if you will - because he did that. He would use a vocabulary that was unlike any other basketball coach I have heard."
Prosser, who led the Demon Deacons to their first No. 1 ranking three seasons ago, died Thursday of an apparent heart attack, the university said. He was 56.
"He considered himself a teacher," Wellman said. "He always talked about teaching. Not just coaching, but teaching."
Prosser rose from being a coach in the smallest classification of West Virginia high school basketball to the leader of Wake Forest's first top-ranked team in the nation.
He was found slumped on his office couch and unresponsive by director of basketball operations Mike Muse shortly after the coach returned from his noon jog, 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 Thursday 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."
Confirmation of Prosser's death was delayed until Thursday night because his wife was traveling to Cincinnati and could not be reached to notify her, Wellman said. Several players were taken to an off-campus location without their cell phones in the afternoon to temporarily shield them from news reports of Prosser's death.
"The longer it went, probably they realize that it was a tragic situation, but when I told them, it confirmed their worst thoughts," Wellman said.
Support poured in from across the Atlantic Coast Conference, with North Carolina coach Roy Williams saying he was "absolutely shocked and deeply saddened," while Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said Prosser was "ultimately respected for his coaching ability, his quick humor and, most importantly, for being a quality person. We lost him far too soon."
Prosser spent six seasons at Wake Forest, winning an ACC regular-season title in 2003 and reaching the NCAA tournament in his first four seasons. Wake Forest went to No. 1 in the AP poll for the first time during the 2004-05 season.
Chris Paul, who went on to star in the NBA, was the point guard on that team.
"He played a very significant role in my life and his influence extended well beyond the game of basketball," Paul said in a statement.
Before arriving in Winston-Salem, Prosser was head coach at Xavier for seven seasons and at Loyola of Maryland for one. He is the only coach to take three schools to the NCAA tournament in his first season at each.
Prosser had a career record of 291-146 as a head coach, including 126-68 with Wake Forest. While there, he coached future NBA stars Paul and Josh Howard, and was the ACC coach of the year in 2003.
Prosser averaged nearly 24 wins in his first four seasons at Wake Forest - including a school-record 27 in 2005 - with his up-tempo offense. But after Paul left for the NBA after his sophomore year, Prosser's last two teams struggled to a combined 32-33 record, including 8-24 in the ACC, with youth-laden teams.
Prosser is survived by his wife, Nancy, and sons, Scott and Mark. Mark Prosser is an assistant coach at Bucknell.