The sudden death of Wake Forest men’s basketball coach Skip Prosser from an apparent heart attack yesterday was surprising not only because Prosser was just 56, but because the low-key Prosser was a physically fit, clean-living guy. Considering some of the physical trainwrecks that populate the world of college hoops, it was doubly surprising and saddening that Prosser passed so early. The Baltimore Sun‘s story on Prosser’s death manages to somehow make the story about how Gary Williams needs to calm the fuck down, but also mentions 1) Prosser’s forgotten tenure at Loyola of Maryland, where he led the Greyhounds to their one and only NCAA Tournament berth and 2) limn the ways in which he remained a down-to-earth and pleasant guy:
“People see the way I coach, but Skip was one of those guys who internalized a little bit,” said (Gary) Williams. “He’s not as demonstrative as I was on the sideline, but there are a lot of theories on that, that if you let it out it’s better than keeping everything inside.
“If you talked to Skip, you would never know whether it was three years ago when they won the league, or if he had a tough game or a tough season.”
Prosser was well-liked throughout college basketball, and earned a reputation for his sense of humor and intellect. After graduating from Carnegie High School, Prosser earned a degree in nautical science from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in 1972 and went to graduate school at West Virginia, where he got his master’s in secondary education.
“He’s so different,” said (Loyola Lacrosse Coach Dave) Cottle. “He was just so diverse. He could talk to a lot of different people on a lot of different levels. He’d call me and leave books to read. He was into Robert Ludlum.”
Prosser also taught history at Central Catholic High School in Wheeling, W.Va., where he led the school to one state title (1982), five regional championships and three conference titles in six years.
Loyola athletic director Joe Boylan, who remained good friends with Prosser, was also a history teacher and said he and Prosser used to exchange textbooks.
“I always described him as a renaissance man coaching college basketball,” said Boylan, who had talked to Prosser a week ago and said he was unaware of any health problems. “I think, coming from Pittsburgh, Carnegie was a tough area growing up, and teaching history he never forgot all that. I think it really kept him grounded.”
Prosser was hired at Wake Forest in 2001 and led the Demon Deacons to the NCAA tournament in each of his first four seasons there, and the 2003 Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season championship. He was just nine wins shy of 300 entering this season, with a career record of 291-146 (.666).