July 26, 2007

Prosser's death shocks college basketball

MORE: Wetzel: The game's loss | Odom mourns friend | Prosser career timeline

Wake Forest basketball coach Skip Prosser, 56, died Thursday after collapsing after a jog on campus.

Prosser was found slumped on his office couch and unresponsive by director of basketball operations Mike Muse shortly after returning from his noon jog, 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 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."

Dr. William Applegate, the dean of the university medical school, said the events were "typical of a sudden massive heart attack."

"This kind of attack, when it's not witnessed by someone next to the person and CPR is not started within seconds, then the outcome is often not good," Applegate said.

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.

Prosser was 126-68 in six seasons in Winston-Salem. His overall career record was 291-146 in 14 seasons, including seven seasons at Xavier.

"Skip Prosser was one of the best and brightest basketball coaches in the country," said Clemson coach Oliver Purnell, who faced Prosser not only in the ACC but when both were coaches in the Atlantic 10. "He was successful because of his work ethic, great personality and his personal integrity in every aspect of his life. He was a genuine person.

"We were fierce competitors for many years during my career at Clemson and Dayton. But when that game or season ended, he was my friend. This is a sad and tragic day for everyone associated with college basketball."

Prosser's son Mark is an assistant coach at Bucknell. According to the Bucknell sports information office, Mark Prosser had been on the road recruiting. He departed for North Carolina upon hearing the news of his father's collapse.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Mark and the whole Prosser family," said Jon Terry, Bucknell assistant director of athletics for communications.

Prosser's teams made nine NCAA Tournaments (one at Loyola, Md., three at Xavier and five at Wake) and three NIT appearances. He is the only coach in NCAA history to take three schools to the NCAAs in his first season there.

Skip Prosser was truly one of the really good guys in our business and all of us are devastated by this.
Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings on Prosser

He won 20-plus games in each of his first four seasons at Wake. His 2002-03 team went 25-6 overall and 13-3 in the league to win the ACC regular-season title. He was named ACC Coach of the Year.

Wake Forest went to No. 1 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.

"His passing is a tremendous loss for the entire Wake Forest community," Paul said in a statement. "He played a very significant role in my life and his influence extended well beyond the game of basketball. He taught me many valuable life lessons and was someone I admired with the utmost respect."

The Demon Deacons went 15-16 last season and did not make the postseason. They did get off to a 5-0 start, including an 88-77 home victory over Vanderbilt in November.

Commodores coach Kevin Stallings was saddened by the news.

"What a tragic loss for the Prosser family, the Wake Forest University community and all of college basketball," Stallings said. "Skip Prosser was truly one of the really good guys in our business and all of us are devastated by this."

Wake Forest is scheduled to play at Vanderbilt in December.

Prosser had made headlines earlier this month when he secured the commitments of a pair of Rivals five-star prospects, 6-8 small forward Al-Farouq Aminu (No. 1 at his position and third overall) and 6-11 center Tony Woods (ranked third among centers and No. 18 overall). With another five-star prospect (6-11 Ty Walker, No. 10 overall) already on board, the Demon Deacons were headed for a stellar recruiting class.

Aminu and Woods are AAU teammates with the Georgia Stars. They played Thursday at the Super Showcase event in Orlando, Fla.

While in Orlando, Prosser had lunch Wednesday with South Carolina coach Dave Odom, his predecessor at Wake Forest (see Odom mourns death of friend).

Wellman said team officials gathered several current players in the afternoon and took them to an off-campus location without their cell phones for about four hours in an attempt to temporarily shield them from news reports of Prosser's death.

"They've all been in shock," Wellman said. "The longer it went, probably they realize that it was a tragic situation, but when I told them, it confirmed their worst thoughts, and they responded as you would expect, a bunch of 18-to-22-year-olds who I think loved their coach."

Prosser wasn't just busy on the recruiting trail this summer. He also was among the coaches who participated in Operation Hardwood IV in Kuwait in May. OH is an initiative launched a couple of years ago to boost morale among U.S. military men and women serving in the Middle East. The coaches lead teams representing each of the eight U.S. bases in the area. They stage a tournament with all the fervor of March Madness, albeit designed as an escape from the madness of war.

Prosser record
Skip Prosser's record as a head coach:
Year School Record Pct. Postseason
1993-94Loyola (Md.)17-13.567NCAA first round
1994-95Xavier23-5.821NCAA first round
1996-97Xavier23-6.793NCAA second round
1997-98Xavier22-8.733NCAA first round
1998-99Xavier25-11.694NIT third place
1999-2000Xavier21-12.639NIT second round
2000-01Xavier21-8.724NCAA first round
2001-02Wake Forest21-13.618NCAA second round
2002-03Wake Forest25-6.806NCAA second round
2003-04Wake Forest21-10.677NCAA Sweet 16
2004-05Wake Forest27-6.818NCAA second round
2005-06Wake Forest 17-17.500NIT first round
2006-07Wake Forest15-16.484None
Totals 3 schools 291-146 .666
Prosser's team won the event, beating the team coached by Notre Dame head man Mike Brey in the final.

Brey was shaken by the news. The two had become very close.

"This is an extremely sad day for the coaching profession and for me personally because Skip was such a good friend," Brey said. "He was one of the great men in education. I wish my son Kyle could have played for Skip Prosser."

Ohio State coach Thad Matta, who replaced Prosser at Xavier in 2001, called him "one of the all-time great people in coaching."

North Carolina coach Roy Williams said he was "absolutely shocked and deeply saddened" by Prosser's death.

"Over these last four seasons there have been several occasions on which he was the first coach to call and offer his heartfelt congratulations," Williams said in a statement. "Skip was someone who will be measured in terms of his actions, not just words. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family. The world has lost a great person and great family man."

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said in a statement that 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."

Bob McClellan is the college basketball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at bmcclellan@rivals.com.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

For more coverage of Wake Forest, visit DeaconsIllustrated.com.


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