I received a number of heartfelt and personal letters concerning the passing of Skip Prosser, a man I can't say enough good things about. It's funny, because in death almost anyone famous gets lionized. As a result, I think people get desensitized to such praise.
They shouldn't this time. Skip was a uniquely tremendous person in possession of incredible wit, intelligence, honesty and passion. Through the years, he and I would trade book recommendations – something no other person in athletics, and I've met thousands of coaches and athletes, ever did. I took many of his. But Friday I dusted off an old book on Irish history he recommended that I had for whatever reason purchased and never got around to. I'm going to enjoy every page now, a final gift from him I guess.
Below are some of the emails that came in concerning Skip. Maybe this is a small gift back from some of the people he touched personally.
SKIP PROSSER ("The game’s loss," July 26, 2007)
Thank you for the article on Coach Prosser. I was a former student of his at Wheeling Central and became a history teacher because of him.
Although I was a wrestler, I respected him more than any coach I had ever played for. Now, I am a high school principal for an International School in Shanghai, China. I have dedicated my life to a career in education and Coach Prosser is the man responsible for that decision. This morning, as I read the news stories about his death, you can imagine the loss I feel in my soul. My inspiration, my motivation is gone.
I only hope that as I continue working with young people, I can inspire like he inspired me. Coach Prosser used to say to me before my wrestling matches, "Eddie, as the Spartans would say before battle, 'Come home carrying your shield, not on it.'"
Coach Prosser has always carried his shield and as he is now a fallen hero, I will pick up that shield and continue what he started with me more than 20 years ago. Dan, thanks again for the article. I have printed it and will keep it in my office right next to my Ph.D. degree to remind me why I do what I do.
Dr. Eddie R. Campbell, Jr. Ph.D.
Thank you for great tribute to Coach Skip. I have just spent two years at Wake Forest as a full-time MBA student and attended many basketball games. Wake is a small school but there is something special about Wake that draws people here and drew me here. I think that something special are the professors and the athletic coaches who have a passion for educating others and getting to know you as a person and not as a number. In turn, you become part of the Wake family.
The quad was "rolled" last night by the students and it was a very fitting tribute to Skip. (If you don't know, rolling of the quad is a Wake tradition where after a big win in any sport, toilet paper is thrown up into the trees on the main part of campus. The last time the quad was rolled was when Wake won the ACC in football.) Thanks again for your words.
Very much enjoyed your column on Skip. He will be sorely missed. I was a freshman at Wake Forest (from Cincinnati, and a Xavier fan to boot) when Skip was announced as coach in April of 2001. At his welcoming press conference, I got a press pass since I was hosting the Sports TV show. Even though I was 18 and still was afraid of girls, I raised my hand and asked a question. Essentially I asked how he was going to better involve the WFU students, and make the Joel Coliseum rock like the Gardens in the Crosstown Shootout. He smiled and said that it says WAKE on the jersey, not SKIP … and that the team belongs to the students.
After the press conference, he came over to me and immediately said “So what part of Cincinnati are you from?” We talked for about 5 minutes, and then I invited him over for some Skyline (chili) back at my dorm.
What a beautiful refreshing story on Skip Prosser. One can overcome by aggressiveness but one conquers with love understanding and that apparently is what Skip was able to do.
Former Louisiana State basketball coach
Baton Rouge, La.
Thoughtful piece you put together in a difficult time on coach Skip Prosser. I'm sure you (media) get to know the coach differently than the common basketball fan, which makes these columns probably all the more difficult to write.
But the teaching he always demonstrated whether on or off the court really shows his passion for education and honesty. I was attending Xavier when he arrived as head coach and you knew after the first few years that it was only a matter of time until he progressed to one of the NCAA's elite leagues. Who could turn down such a good teacher in all facets of life … his coaching ability combined with the integrity he brought and displayed to all who cared to notice.
If you knew what he stood for, this kind of news wants to make you want to grab a good book and challenge yourself to think act as he would, and then share it with anyone who will listen. Memories for a good guy will be shared with my next pint of Guinness, if only he were around to have one more with all of us.
It is with a heavy heart I congratulate you in your remembrance of Skip. He was a very approachable coach who was always sharing a beer or burger at local establishment after a win OR loss during his time at Xavier. My prayers are with his family and all those he touched during his short life.
Your article on Skip Prosser was not only well written but also a fine tribute to him. I was fortunate enough to personally be a part of Skip's "education" in basketball during his years as a freshman coach, JV coach then head coach in high school.
Although it was hard to see him leave Linsly Military Institute (Prosser's first job in West Virginia), it was a great pleasure seeing him take a poor team at Wheeling Central and win a state championship in a few short years. He was not only a great basketball coach, but as you pointed out, he was a great teacher as well. He will be missed.
I returned tonight from missionary training, disconnected from the media for seven weeks. As I got online to get back in touch with worldwide events, the first headline that caught my eye was regarding the sudden death of Skip Prosser.
As an Xavier graduate, college basketball fan and dedicated supporter of Coach Prosser, I was certainly shocked and overtaken by this news. Although tragedies like these are typically difficult to read, your column articulates the essence of Skip's being and the legacy he will leave this world.
In a time when cynicism surrounds professional and college sports, here was a coach who cared about the whole being of the student-athlete. I am so glad your article was the first I had the privilege to read regarding Coach Prosser's death. Thank you for honoring this true role-model.
I was a student ay Linsly Military Institute in Wheeling, W.Va. when Coach Prosser coach and taught there from 1977-79. Even though I didn't play basketball, I did have Coach Processor as a physical education instructor and he was quite a character. He was a fine man and he will be missed.
Nice article about Skip. I worked at Xavier's summer camp with him when he was an assistant for the first time – he was a great guy; funny, articulate, and really loved the game of basketball.
To say I am in shock today is an understatement; it seems like yesterday that we were sitting in an office at Xavier eating pizza and talking X's and O's during the summer camp. At the Ohio High School basketball coaches association clinic, he talked once about how his greatest moment as a coach was that when playing Duke, the WF students were holding up signs that said: "The best team in the ACC is here tonight, and so is Duke".
This is a sad day for all coaches and hoops fans.
Thanks for the article Dan. Brought tears to my eyes, again. I never met Skip in person. He was the basketball coach at my alma mater, but he was much, much more than that to me. Skip embodied the kind of person I wanted to represent my school. Wake Forest is, if nothing else, a family. A small, academic school with a passion for excellence in all things, including athletics.
Skip was such a great fit for us, because those things are what Skip was about. Academics and athletics, in that order. We embraced what was special about Wake, was proud of it. Demanded success, on the court and off. Every kid he coached at WF got his degree, on time. He was, and will always be in our hearts and minds, a great man, a great teacher, coach, and friend.
To say we'll miss him terribly is to underestimate the impact he had on the lives he touched. Even for the people he never met, or who never had the pleasure or honor to meet him. I appreciate you reminding us of the guy who knew, followed, cheered, and loved, and telling those who didn't know him what kind of guy we all lost. He was one of a kind and I, for one, will miss him terribly.