Saturday, July 26, 2008

RIP Skip Prosser: the one-year anniversary

Today marks the one year anniversary of the sudden and tragic death of Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser. I never had the chance to meet him, but by all accounts he was one of the great teachers and most well respected coaches in the game. His coaching accolades speak for themselves: a 291-146 career record (.666 winning percentage), 2003 ACC coach of the year, regular season titles in three different leagues (MCC, A-10, ACC). And in a state where college basketball is synonymous with Roy Williams' and Dean Smith's, Coach K's and Jimmy V's, Prosser was able to create a name, a reputation, and a legacy for himself.

For Prosser, it was always about more than just basketball. For example, during his tenure, 100% of the players that played for four years earned their degrees. 100%. How often do you see that. And where most coaches use the cliche, "Give 110%!!" quotes to inspire and motivate their team, Prosser had a reputation for quoting his favorite authors - be it Thomas Paine or Shakespeare - before games (the link is to a great article Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports wrote the day after Prosser died).

Most college teams take a summer exhibition tour, usually to a place like the Bahamas or Puerto Rico or Canada. Prosser, who never lost the student in him, would always bring his Demon Deacon teams to Europe, to places where his players could take in some of our world's greatest historical monuments. He would line up a professor to teach a one credit course on the history of their destination during the spring semester, requiring his team to take the class. What's more is that Prosser would take the class with his players, even going as far as writing the final paper for it. How many coaches can say that.

Maybe the most telling aspect about the effect Prosser had on his players is that this year's recruiting class, which is top 3 in the country, all decided to honor their oral commitments to Wake Forest. Ty Walker, Al-Farouq Aminu, and Tony Woods all were recruited by and committed to Prosser last summer as high school rising seniors. All were pursued by other schools and other coaches, pretty heavily I might add, after Prosser's death, but decided to honor Prosser by attending Wake. Walker even got a tattoo saying "RIP Coach Prosser" on his arm, commemorating a coach he never played for.

Dino Gaudio, who considered Prosser a best-friend and a mentor, took over the Wake Forest program, which after a couple of down years looks to be back in the thick of things, at least on paper, atop the ACC. The Deac's return essentially their entire team, who went 17-13 last year, highlighted by an upset of then No. 2 Duke, and were at one point midway through the year third in the ACC. Last year Wake was led by two freshman. PG Jeff Teague, who averaged 13.9 ppg on the season and 19.1 ppg in the last nine games, anchors an experienced backcourt. Forward James Johnson, who put up 14.6 ppg and 8.1 rpg, will combine with the trio of freshman to form what may be the best front court in the ACC. Wake is probably the pre-season favorite to finish third behind Duke and UNC.

All the success Wake had last year and (presumably) will have this year is bittersweet for Gaudio, who is reminded of Prosser everywhere he goes. Hopefully, the 2008-2009 Wake Forest team, on which all of the players were recruited by Prosser, can live up to his lofty standards.

RIP Skip. In a profession where morals are decaying by the hour, you did it the right way.


Anonymous said...

this guys a douchebag!

Anonymous said...

Nice comment. I guess that you proved his point.

Andrew Abshere said...

Awesome post Rob, and congrats on getting the ESPN link! Coaches have long lasting effects on us, and it is a testament to Skip Prosser's character that his story and influence live on. Good luck with the blog!

Tracey said...

Great post Rob(Bobby). I know one of the most important people in memory bank is my first basketball coach in elementary school. Coaches can be very special people in ones life.