Skip Prosser
Skip Prosser

Hometown:
Pittsburgh, PA

Alma Mater:
U.S. Merchant Marine Academy '72

Full Name: George Edward "Skip" Prosser

Born: November 3, 1950

Died: July 26, 2007

Birth Place: Pittsburgh, PA

Wife: Nancy

Sons: Scott (28) and Mark (27)

College: United States Merchant Marine Academy (1972)

Degree: Nautical Science

Graduate School: West Virginia University (1980)

Master's Degree: Secondary Education

High School: Carnegie (PA) High School

High School Sports Played: Football, basketball

Championships

2003 ACC Regular Season

1998 A-10 Conference Tournament

1998 A-10 Conference West Regular Season

1997 A-10 Conference West Regular Season

1995 MCC Regular Season

1994 MAAC Tournament

Honors

2003 ACC Coach of the Year

2003 NABC District Coach of the Year

2003 USBWA District Coach of the Year

1997 Mideast Coach of the Year (Basketball Times)

1997 NABC District Coach of the Year

1995 MCC Coach of the Year

Skip Prosser, Wake Forest's basketball coach for six seasons, passed away on July 26, 2007 of an apparent heart attack.

In six years with the Deacons, Prosser posted a 126-68 record. For his career, he was 291-146 in 14 seasons including six as the head coach at Xavier and one year at Loyola (Md.).

At Wake Forest, Prosser's teams averaged 21 wins per season while playing in arguably the nation's most difficult league, the Atlantic Coast Conference. Prosser won 100 games at an ACC school quicker than all but two coaches in the 55-year history of the conference.

Before arriving at Wake Forest prior to the 2001-02 season, Prosser enjoyed highly-successful stints at Loyola (Md.) for one season and at Xavier for seven seasons. Prosser is the only coach in NCAA history to take three different schools to the NCAA Tournament in his first season at each of those schools.

When Prosser took over the reins at Wake Forest, he inherited a program rich in basketball tradition and history. How he almost immediately took the program to a new, higher level is remarkable.

In each of his first four seasons in Winston-Salem, Prosser guided Wake Forest to an NCAA Tournament appearance. The Deacons advanced to at least the second round of the NCAA Tournament in each of those years. In 2004, Wake Forest advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1996.

Prosser's success at Wake Forest was not relegated to the NCAA Tournament. In 2003, the Deacons won the ACC regular season championship outright for the first time in more than 40 years. In the 2004-05 season, Wake Forest rose to No. 1 in the national polls for the first time in the illustrious history of the school. The Deacons, in fact, were ranked in the Associated Press top 25 for a school record 60 consecutive weeks under Prosser.

Under Prosser, the Deacons were one of the ACC's winningest teams over the last six years. In both 2003 and 2005, Wake Forest went 13-3 in the ACC. During Prosser's tenure, the Deacons were 52-44 in league play. In the ACC Tournament, Wake Forest went 3-2 over the last two years combined.

Wake Forest, which defeated 18 different nationally-ranked teams under Prosser, won a school record 27 games in 2005. Almost annually over the last six years, Wake Forest has been one of the nation's highest-scoring teams. In 2003, the Deacons became the first ACC team ever to lead the nation in rebounding.

A key to Prosser's success at Wake Forest was recruiting some of the nation's top high school players and developing those players into all-stars. Prosser was able to win national recruiting wars to sign McDonald's All-Americans Chris Paul and Eric Williams. After playing for Prosser, Paul, Josh Howard and Darius Songaila were all selected in the NBA Draft and are currently enjoying outstanding professional careers.

While playing under Prosser, Paul was named the 2004 ACC Rookie of the Year and earned first team All-American honors in 2005. Howard was a unanimous selection - the first unanimous selection since 1974 - for ACC Player of the Year. Howard was also a first team All-American and was named National Player of the Year by several sources.

Prosser was named ACC Coach of the Year in 2003, giving him conference coach of the year honors in two different leagues.

What Prosser accomplished at Wake Forest was not limited to on-the-court success.

He embraced Wake Forest's academic standards and stressed performance in the classroom by his players. Every senior that he coached at Wake Forest earned his diploma in four years. From Day One, Prosser made academics a priority with his players. Mandatory study halls are the norm, class attendance is checked and Prosser even named academic counselor Jane Caldwell the team's "MVP" in 2002 and in 2007.

With an exciting style of basketball, a strong relationship with the student body and raucous pre-game festivities, Prosser and his staff turned Lawrence Joel Coliseum into one of the loudest facilities around. With black and gold tie-dyed T-shirts filling the arena and the mascot riding a Harley-Davidson, the atmosphere in Wake's home arena turned 180 degrees.

Prosser and company made home games more than just a basketball game, but an event, resulting in increased attendance. In 2005-06, for the first time in school history, Wake Forest sold completely out of season tickets. There were 14,665 tickets sold or distributed to every home game.

The Deacons responded by going 81-17 at home, including a 24-game homecourt win streak and a 16-0 record in Joel Coliseum in 2002-03 and another 16-0 mark at home in 2004-05.

Prosser's 14 years as a head coach were a model of consistency. His teams won at least 21 games in nine of the last 11 seasons. His teams advanced to the NCAA Tournament nine times and to the NIT three times.

Prosser's career winning percentage (.666) was one of the highest among active coaches.

"I don't have a career record," Prosser said. "The players won those games."

Prosser won regular season titles in three different leagues (ACC, Atlantic 10, MCC) and postseason conference tournament crowns in two leagues (Atlantic 10, MAAC). He was named conference Coach of the Year in two different leagues and was one of just 10 active Division I coaches to lead three different teams into the NCAA Tournament.

In 21 years as a college coach, Prosser coached in 18 postseason tournaments.

Prosser saw many of his players go on to enjoy successful careers in the NBA and overseas. In 2002, Songaila was taken in the second round of the NBA Draft by the Boston Celtics and he currently plays for the Washington Wizards. Howard was selected in the first round of the 2003 Draft by the Dallas Mavericks. In 2005, Paul was an NBA "lottery pick" and a near-unanimous selection for NBA Rookie of the Year in 2006 for the New Orleans Hornets.

At Xavier, Prosser coached players such as David West, James Posey, Torraye Braggs and Lionel Chalmers, who played last season in the NBA. As an assistant at Xavier, Prosser helped recruit future NBA players such as Derek Strong, Aaron Williams, Larry Sykes, Tyrone Hill and Brian Grant.

In Prosser's first season at Wake Forest in 2001-02, he led the Deacons to a 21-13 record (despite facing seven teams ranked in the top 10), a third-place finish in the ACC and an NCAA Tournament appearance. Prosser led Wake to a 9-7 record in the league, tying for third place behind two recent NCAA champions -- Maryland and Duke. The Deacons swept rivals North Carolina and NC State, won an NCAA Tournament game for the first time since 1997 and set a school record for points scored, assists and three-point attempts in one season.

Only four coaches in the 50-year history of the ACC won more league games in their rookie year than Prosser did. He became the first rookie coach at Wake Forest since 1927 to post a winning record. Prosser was a finalist for the Naismith National Coach of the Year Award.

But the 2001-02 season was just a stepping stone. In 2002-03, Prosser guided Wake Forest to its highest level since the Tim Duncan era.

Wake Forest finished the 2002-03 season with a 25-6 overall record and a final No. 8 ranking in the Associated Press poll -- then Wake's highest finish in the poll since 1995. The Deacons finished 13-3 and in first place in the ACC for the first time since 1995. It was WFU's first outright ACC regular season title in 41 years.

Prosser's Deacons were not ranked in any of the preseason polls and were picked to finish as low as seventh in the ACC, but Prosser molded a rotation of seven freshmen and sophomores with All-American senior Josh Howard into one of college basketball's top teams in 2002-03.

For his efforts, Prosser was named the ACC Coach of the Year. He was also named district coach of the year by the NABC and the USBWA, and he was a finalist for the Naismith National Coach of the Year.

In 2003-04, Wake Forest fielded one of the nation's youngest rosters (no scholarship seniors) and faced one of college basketball's most difficult schedules. Prosser helped guide the youth-laden team to 21 victories, a third-place finish in the ACC, an ACC-best 14th consecutive postseason appearance and a berth in the NCAA Sweet Sixteen.

Along the way, the Deacons rose to as high as No. 3 in the national polls and beat two teams ranked in the top five -- No. 3 Duke and No. 4 North Carolina. The win over North Carolina -- a 119-114 triple-overtime thriller in Chapel Hill to open the ACC season -- went down as one of the greatest ACC games in the 51-year history of the league.

The 2003-04 Deacons ranked third nationally in scoring offense and led the ACC in field goal percentage. Sophomore Justin Gray earned first team All-ACC honors and Paul was named ACC Rookie of the Year.

Wake Forest set a number of records and reached a number of firsts in 2004-05. The Deacons, with a record of 27-6, set a school record for single-season victories. In November, Wake rose to No. 1 in the national polls for the first time ever. The Deacons were ranked no lower than seventh in the national polls from beginning to end and finished with a national AP ranking of fifth.

There were other impressive numbers in 2004-05. Wake went 6-3 against ranked teams and 7-1 in games decided by five points or less. The Deacons broke an NCAA record by making 51 consecutive free throws and they finished third nationally in scoring offense.

Individually, three players were named All-ACC (Paul was first team, Gray and Williams were named to the second team). Paul was an Academic All-American as well. Prosser was named Wake Forest's head coach on April 24, 2001, replacing Dave Odom.

Prior to coming to Winston-Salem, Prosser enjoyed success at Xavier University from 1995-2001, compiling a 148-65 (.695) record in seven seasons.

Xavier earned a record of 71-35 (.669) in conference play during his tenure -- second only to Temple in the Atlantic 10. The Musketeers earned back-to-back Atlantic 10 West regular season crowns in 1997 and 1998. In his last five seasons at Xavier, the Musketeers beat crosstown rival Cincinnati four times. Two of those victories came against Bearcat teams ranked No. 1 in the nation.

At Xavier, 83 percent of Prosser's players graduated (100 percent of the seniors) -- one of the highest graduation rates in the country.

Prosser spent 15 years at Xavier, first as an assistant coach under Pete Gillen for eight seasons. After a one-year stint as head coach at Loyola (Md.) College, Prosser returned to Xavier as the head coach, replacing Gillen.

In Prosser's final season at Xavier in 2000-01, the Musketeers posted a 21-8 record with just one senior in the starting lineup, earning an NCAA Tournament bid. The previous season, 1999-00, Xavier finished 21-12, securing its fourth straight 20-win season and its fifth 20-win season in six years under Prosser.

In 1997-98, XU earned an 11-5 mark in the Atlantic 10 and went on to capture the league's postseason tournament. In 1996-97, Xavier won the first of two consecutive Atlantic 10 Conference West Division titles by going 13-3 in the league despite having no seniors among its top six players.

Prosser was named the Basketball Times Mideast Coach of the Year and the NABC District 10 Coach of the Year. In 1995-96, Xavier jumped from the MCC to the Atlantic 10 and many critics doubted the move. The Musketeers lost five of their top six players from the 1994-95 team, but managed to finish with an 8-8 A-10 regular season record. Prosser's teams went on to silence those critics by going 57-23 in Atlantic 10 play from 1997-2001. Prosser's first Xavier team in 1994-95 won the Midwestern Collegiate Conference regular season title with a perfect 14-0 mark (23-5 overall). Prosser was named the MCC Coach of the Year that season.

Prior to taking over as head coach at Xavier, Prosser spent one season (1993-94) as head coach at Loyola (Md.) College and enjoyed a true Cinderella season. He took over a squad that finished 2-25 the previous season. But Prosser led Loyola to a 17-13 mark in 1993-94, making the NCAA Tournament for the only time in that school's history. It marked the biggest turnaround in NCAA Division I basketball in 1994. The underdog Greyhounds won three MAAC Tournament games en route to winning the championship and capturing the automatic NCAA bid.

Before his stop at Loyola, Prosser spent eight years as the top assistant under Gillen. Prosser was a member of Gillen's first staff at Xavier in 1985. During Prosser's time as a Xavier assistant, the Musketeers compiled a record of 180-67, capturing five Midwestern Collegiate Conference Tournament championships and five MCC regular season titles while earning seven NCAA Tournament berths. Xavier advanced to at least the second round of the NCAA Tournament in four of seven appearances, including the Sweet 16 in 1990.

Xavier's recruiting efforts enjoyed great growth during Prosser's time as an assistant. As an assistant coach, he concentrated his efforts on the guards including Byron Larkin, Stan Kimbrough, Jamal Walker, Michael Davenport, Jamie Gladden and Michael Hawkins, all of whom scored more than 1,000 career points.

Prosser came to Xavier as an assistant coach in 1985 after an illustrious coaching career on the high school level in Wheeling (WV). He took over as head coach at Central Catholic High School in Wheeling in 1979. His six-year ledger read 104-48, including a state AA championship in 1982. The 1982 team set a school record for victories, finishing 25-2.

His last team, in 1984-85, made it to the state finals. In all, Prosser guided the Maroon Knights to one state title (1982), five regional championships (1981-82-83-84-85) and three conference crowns (1982-83-85).

Dino Gaudio, an assistant at Xavier under Gillen from 1987-93 and currently Wake Forest's head coach, was Prosser's top assistant coach for four years at Central Catholic. Prosser began his coaching career at Linsly Institute in Wheeling, spending time as the freshman coach (1972-76) and junior varsity coach (1976-77) before being promoted to head varsity coach (1977-79). Linsly compiled a record of 33-9 with Prosser as the varsity coach.

Leaving Xavier and the city of Cincinnati was not easy. Wake Forest athletic director Ron Wellman searched nationwide for a new coach and he sought the advice of some of basketball's top minds. Prosser's name continued to surface over and over again.

"When I started the process, I called the people who I thought knew the best college basketball coaches in the nation. They all said the same thing about Skip Prosser: 'If you can hire him, you better get him.' Not only is he a great basketball coach, but he's a great person.

"Skip Prosser knows the rules and he follows them. He doesn't push the rules as far as he can and see what he can get away with. He knows the rules and he follows them strictly. Secondly, he graduates his players. He is committed to the academic process. Thirdly, he is a great representative of our university. And fourth, he wins. His record shows that he knows how to win basketball games."

Prosser expected his players to attend class and graduate. He expected his players to be solid representatives of the University. On the court, he expected his players to work extremely hard and compete for championships.

"I won't make a lot of promises but I won't make excuses, either," Prosser said prior to his first season at Wake. "Our goal is to compete for championships every year. Our style will be to play very quickly. We expect to win every time we play and we expect to be the hardest-playing team on the court.

"I hate to lose to anybody. I'm not a good loser. I abhor the losses a lot more than I enjoy the wins." Prosser expected his team to hold the same goals as the university.

"Wake Forest has the vision to be the best university it can be and to be one of the best in the country. The same is true with our basketball team. We want to be the best team we can be and we want to compete with the best teams in the country."

Prosser and Wake Forest were a perfect fit. "I've been through a lot of springs with calls and inquiries and invitations to visit other campuses," Prosser said upon his hiring. "Something about Wake Forest rang true for me." On his visit to Wake Forest, Prosser liked the people, the area, the school's academic reputation and the intimate size. And then there was the prospect of coaching in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

"As the commercial says: The greatest risk is not taking one," Prosser said.

A 1972 graduate of the United States Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point (NY), with a degree in Nautical Science, Prosser played three years of basketball as a guard and one year of rugby as a collegian. He received his master's degree in secondary education from West Virginia University in 1980.

Prosser attended Carnegie (Pa.) High School, where he was a standout football and basketball player.

George Edward "Skip" Prosser, who was born on Nov. 3, 1950 in Pittsburgh (Pa.), is survived by the former Nancy Franklin, and two sons, Scott (28) and Mark (27). Mark played basketball at Marist College, and is an assistant coach at Bucknell.

Prosser was the 19th head coach in Wake Forest history and just the fourth since 1972. Carl Tacy coached 13 seasons, from 1973-85. Bob Staak was the Deacon coach for four years, from 1986-89. Dave Odom took over in 1990 and coached 12 seasons before resigning to take the head coaching position at the University of South Carolina.

"Coaching isn't wins and losses," Prosser said. "It's teaching. That's the reason I got into coaching and the reason I've stayed in coaching.

"I hope that I remain in the business of education."

Prosser Year-By-Year

2006-07 Head coach, Wake Forest

2005-06 Head coach, Wake Forest

2004-05 Head coach, Wake Forest

2003-04 Head coach, Wake Forest

2002-03 Head coach, Wake Forest

2001-02 Head coach, Wake Forest

2000-01 Head coach, Xavier

1999-00 Head coach, Xavier

1998-99 Head coach, Xavier

1997-98 Head coach, Xavier

1996-97 Head coach, Xavier

1995-96 Head coach, Xavier

1994-95 Head coach, Xavier

1993-94 Head coach, Loyola (MD)

1992-93 Ass't coach, Xavier

1991-92 Ass't coach, Xavier

1990-91 Ass't coach, Xavier

1989-90 Ass't coach, Xavier

1988-89 Ass't coach, Xavier

1987-88 Ass't coach, Xavier

1986-87 Ass't coach, Xavier

1985-86 Ass't coach, Xavier

1984-85 Ass't coach, Xavier

1983-84 Head coach, Central Catholic HS

1982-83 Head coach, Central Catholic HS

1981-82 Head coach, Central Catholic HS

1980-81 Head coach, Central Catholic HS

1979-80 Head coach, Central Catholic HS

1978-79 Head coach, Linsly Institute

1977-78 Head coach, Linsly Institute

1976-77 Junior varsity coach, Linsly Institute

1975-76 Freshman coach, Linsly Institute

1973-74 Freshman coach, Linsly Institute

1972-73 Freshman coach, Linsly Institute

1971-72 Freshman coach, Linsly Institute

 

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