Farewell to Coach Prosser

Remembering his impact on others

Wake Forest bid an emotional farewell to Skip Prosser Tuesday, bringing to an end five days of grieving for the popular coach unlike anything the University has ever experienced. During a two-hour funeral mass that was more about faith, family and friendships than basketball, he was remembered for his outstanding character, his love for family, and the impact he had on countless lives, on and off the basketball court.

Skip Prosser's assistant coaches, who served as pallbearers at his funeral, share their grief.

Skip Prosser’s assistant coaches, who served as pallbearers at his funeral, share their grief.

“I never knew a better man,” said associate head coach Dino Gaudio, who had known Prosser for 25 years and who, along with Prosser’s other assistants, served as a pallbearer at the funeral. “His integrity was unwavering. Those of us that were blessed to be under his charge will carry that with us for the rest of our lives. How he lived his life is how we should live our lives.”

Prosser, 56, died July 26 of an apparent heart attack. Director of Athletics Ron Wellman said Prosser’s life wasn’t about championships — although he won the ACC regular season championship in 2003 — but about relationships and friendships. “Skip tried to know everyone. Once you met him, you considered him a friend and he considered you a friend. On campus, he seemed to be everywhere. When he said ‘hi,’ that made your day.”

Also paying tribute to Prosser was former basketball standout Chris Paul, now a guard with the New Orleans Hornets. “He changed my life forever and gave me a chance, along with a lot of other guys in this room,” he said.

About a thousand people — including current and past basketball players and the head basketball coaches from every ACC school and from around the country — joined Prosser’s family at Holy Family Catholic Church in Clemmons for his funeral mass, while another thousand gathered in Wait Chapel to watch the mass on a giant television screen. Inside the chapel, a large photograph of a smiling Prosser was displayed on an easel.

Outside the chapel, toilet paper hung from the trees on Hearn Plaza, the second time in five days that alumni and students had rolled the Quad in Prosser’s memory. “I had to be here,” said Beth Dawson McAlhany (’89), who drove from her home in Greensboro to attend the service in Wait Chapel. “He had been a part of our community and family, and at times like this you want to be with your family.”

In his homily, Father Jude D’Angelo, Wake Forest’s Catholic campus minister, referred to the Wake Forest family and encouraged students and others to take to heart the support shown to Prosser’s family, his coaching staff and players in the days since his death. “This is an outstanding example of what it means to be a member of the Wake Forest family.”

Gaudio was one of five people to deliver eulogies that were moving and occasionally heart-wrenching. But there were also lighter moments, befitting of Prosser’s legendary wit, as when Gaudio noted the large number of coaches in the audience: “If Skip couldn’t be on the road recruiting, you couldn’t be on the road recruiting either,” he said, drawing laughter from the audience in the church and Wait Chapel.

Gaudio recalled his long association with Prosser and how he always demanded the best from his players, dating back to his days coaching high school basketball in West Virginia. He also spoke of the pride Prosser felt for his sons, Mark — an assistant coach at Bucknell University — and Scott — who was often with his dad at games and practices — and how hard he worked to “recruit” his wife, Nancy. To Prosser’s mother, Laura Jo Prosser, he said “Grandma Jo, the last few days have told you everything you need to know about your son; you could write a book on how to raise a son.”

To all the “Prosserisms” shared in the last few days, Gaudio added his own. When Prosser had heard enough of his suggestions at games or practices, he would say, “I got it.” “God got a great one,” Gaudio said. “He took the best coach he could find. I just hope I get to coach with you one more time.” An emotional Paul, struggling to deliver his remarks through tears, recalled another one of Prosser’s favorite expressions that “if you can’t be on time, be early.” “God called coach early,” Paul said. “That team in heaven must have been pretty terrible. God needed coach right away.”

Ed DeChellis, head coach at Penn State University, spoke of his 18-year friendship with Prosser — his closest friend — and recalled his “energy, enthusiasm and passion.” He called on Prosser every few days for advice, he said, prompting his young daughter to ask him in recent days who he was going to talk to now. “The man I count on for direction is gone,” he said. “My compass in life has gone to another place.”

President Nathan O. Hatch said that Prosser had been an extraordinary ambassador for Wake Forest and noted the “outpouring of affection” for him since his death. “Skip lived life to the fullest,” Hatch said. “He took everyone seriously, without pretension. His life reflected the values he professed.”

Wellman said Prosser loved the fanfare of being an ACC coach, but “away from the games, he was the most understated man I know; he wanted no attention.” Prosser dreamed big during his six years as head coach; the tie-dye nation, the invigorated student-fan base and the atmosphere in Joel Coliseum are tributes to Prosser, he said.

A bagpiper led the Prosser family out of Holy Family Catholic Church, while on campus the carillon played the alma mater. Prosser will be buried Saturday in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he lived for almost 17 years while he was an assistant coach and head coach at Xavier University prior to coming to Wake Forest in 2001.

Categories: Athletics, For Alumni, For Parents