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George Edward "Skip" Prosser (November 3 1950July 26 2007) was an Americanmarker college basketball coach who was head basketball coach at Wake Forest Universitymarker at the time of his death. He was the only coach in NCAA history to take three separate schools to the NCAA Tournament in his first year coaching the teams. In 21 years as a collegiate coach, he made 18 postseason appearances.

Previously, he coached Xavier Universitymarker for seven seasons, where he achieved great success. He spent his first year of coaching at the collegiate level at Loyola College in Marylandmarker, where he took the Greyhounds to the team's only modern-day NCAA Tournament appearance.

Prosser was the Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year in 2003. His teams have at times been participants in the NCAA Tournament in March, although Wake Forest did not participate in the 2006 or 2007 seasons.

Early life

Prosser was born and raised in the Pittsburghmarker suburb of Carnegie, Pennsylvaniamarker and graduated from Carnegie High School, where he played football and basketball. He played basketball and rugby union at the United States Merchant Marine Academymarker where he earned a degree in nautical science in 1972.

Prosser coached at Linsly Military Institute in Wheeling, WV, where he achieved a 38-9 record. He then was hired as a history teacher at Wheeling Central Catholic High Schoolmarker, where he coached his teams to a state championship in 1982, five regional championships and three conference titles over a period of six years and a record of 104-48. Prosser would say later in his career that he would be happy if he were still teaching and coaching at Central Catholic High. One of the players on his championship team was Doug Wojcik, now head coach at the University of Tulsamarker. Prosser earned his master's degree in secondary education from West Virginia Universitymarker while he taught at Wheeling Central.

Coaching

Prosser coached 15 seasons as head coach at the collegiate level. He began his college coaching career when he was hired by Coach Pete Gillen as an assistant coach for eight seasons at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohiomarker, starting with the 1985-1986 season, and he became Gillen's top assistant.

Prosser began as head coach at Loyola in Baltimoremarker, a team which he coached to a 17–13 record and its only NCAA tournament berth. The previous year, the team had finished 2–25.Xavier then hired Prosser to take over for his former boss Gillen as head coach when Gillen left for Providence. Prosser became the second-winningest coach in Xavier history after Gillen.

Prosser began his career at Wake Forest in 2001 and led the Demon Deacons to the NCAA tournament in each of his first four years there. Prosser is credited for sparking participation in the Wake Forest student Screamin' Demons and increasing attendance with game-time antics, like having the Demon Deacon mascot enter Lawrence Joel on a Harley Davidson and filling the coliseum with Zombie Nation's "Kernkraft 400" at tip off and when the Deacons would go on a run. During Prosser's tenure as head coach, home season tickets sold out for the first time ever in 2004. During the 2004-2005 season, the team was ranked #1 by the Associated Press for the first time in the school's history and won a school-record 27 games. At Wake Forest, Prosser won 100 games faster than all but two ACC coaches. In 2003, his Demon Deacons squad became the first from the ACC to ever lead the nation in rebounding. In the summer of 2007, Prosser had organized what was said to be a top-five recruiting class for the upcoming year.

Prosser was the collegiate coach of current NBA players Aaron Williams, James Posey, David West, Josh Howard, Darius Songaila, and Chris Paul; he won national recruiting wars for Paul and Eric Williams. He amassed a career record of 291–146 (.666).

Every senior that Prosser coached earned his degree in four years.

Coaching style

His teams were known for their fast tempo and offensive explosiveness, more than they were known for defensive tenacity.

During his last two troubling seasons, he would quote Thomas Paine, Henry David Thoreau, Friedrich Nietzsche or Shakespeare to his players to inspire them. The spring semester prior to summer exhibition tours, Prosser would require that every member of his team take a one-credit class on the history of the place they would be visiting. He would also attend the class and write the required term paper.

Personal life

Prosser and his wife Nancy had two sons, Scott and Mark. However, Nancy is not the mother of his 2 children, Scott and Mark, who are instead from his first marriage to Ruth Charles. Skip and Nancy Prosser met in Cincinnatimarker. Mark is an assistant coach for Wofford Collegemarker.

An avid sports fan, Prosser was a follower of the Pittsburgh Steelers since childhood and would often find sports bars to watch their games while on the road. He was at Three Rivers Stadiummarker to witness the Immaculate Reception. He also saw Roberto Clemente's 3,000th and final hit, and the last game ever played at Three Rivers Stadium. He once hitchhiked across the country.

Prosser earned a reputation in college basketball for a keen intellect and sense of humor. He enjoyed reading the books of Robert Ludlum, along with biographies and books on history, philosophy, and politics. The athletic director at Loyola, Joe Boylan, said that Prosser was a "renaissance man coaching basketball." Former Xavier player Dwayne Wilson said, "He always liked to read history books, so he was always quoting something – whether it be Winston Churchill or another great author – he was always quoting somebody on something."

Prosser stated, in an interview that aired just after his death, that his favorite quote was from Ralph Waldo Emerson: "He was a transcendentalist in America in the 1830s who said `Our chief want in life is someone who will make us do what we can.' I thought that was a powerful statement that we need to be around people who challenge us to be as good as we can be."

Death

On July 26 2007, Prosser collapsed in his office around noon after jogging at the Kentner Stadiummarker track adjacent to his office in the Manchester Athletic Center on Wake Forest's campus. A staff member found him unresponsive around 12:45 pm; medical personnel performed CPR and used a defibrillator in efforts to revive Prosser. He was rushed to Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 1:41 pm from an apparent "sudden massive heart attack". He was 56 years old.

The announcement of Prosser's death was delayed until later in the day because his wife was traveling to Cincinnati and had not yet been reached. Players were gathered and taken to an off-campus location without their cell phones to guard them from reports of Prosser's death.

Prosser ate lunch the previous day with his predecessor as Wake Forest coach, then University of South Carolinamarker coach Dave Odom. Prosser then ate dinner with his son Mark, who was also in Florida recruiting, before flying to North Carolina Thursday morning.

Two Funeral Masses were held for Prosser. The first was on July 31, 2007 at the Holy Family Catholic Church in Clemmons, North Carolinamarker, near the campus of Wake Forest University (Due to seating limitations, this service was televised by closed circuit television to Wait Chapel on the Wake Forest campus). The second mass was held on August 4, 2007 at the Cintas Centermarker on the campus of Xavier University in Cincinnati. Prosser was then buried at the Spring Grove Cemeterymarker in Cincinnati.

Head coaching record

References

  1. [1] Prosser's Funeral Arrangements Announced. WRAL.com, Retrieved on Aug. 4, 2007.
  2. [2] XU Mourns in House Prosser Built. Cincinnati Enquirer, Retrieved Aug. 4, 2007
  3. [3] Xavier community celebrates the life of former men's basketball coach Skip Prosser at Memorial Mass. Xavier University website. Retrieved Aug. 4, 2007


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