Reflecting on Skip's Life

DeaconSports' Michael Jennings reflects on the life of Skip Prosser -- and what Coach Prosser brought to so many others in his life and the Wake Forest University community.

As the news filtered out yesterday that Skip Prosser had succumbed to a heart attack, my mind drifted back to the many times I had the pleasure to talk with him over the past several years.

Knowing the passion he held for his family, his friends, his players, and his job, I was somewhat comforted by the fact that he leaves behind thousands who cared and respected him. Whether it was on a basketball court, in a classroom, or just talking with you (or others,) you always got the impression that you were the most important person in Skip Prosser's life at that moment. His persona was that of a man interested in what you had to say and ready and willing to learn something from you.

You see, most of all Skip Prosser was a teacher and a learner who valued people and what they thought in a way few ever do. His insatiable quest for more knowledge and understanding of the human species knew no limit and followed no ironclad course. He was always willing to learn new methods, words, or ways to benefit his standing in his chosen profession and indeed in his daily life.

Most people knew him as a basketball coach who was an intense competitor who hated losing and would not accept it meekly but would agonize about it for days on end but he was so much more that that. He was also a devoted family man, an avid reader and a great lover of the sport he did not coach, namely football. Yes, he was stubborn to an extent but it was a stubbornness born out of the love he had for his players, the game, and his upbringing as a young man from Pittsburgh.

His untimely passing is a tragedy for his wife Nancy and his sons Mark and Scott as well as his fellow coaches, staff, and friends at Wake Forest University but not one that he would want us to dwell on too long. Skip loved what he did and reveled in it even during times when it was not going the way he liked and would want us to know that he was content with what he had done while here and ready for what awaits him.

He told me during one of our interviews that what he really wanted to be known as was a teacher of young men and not just a basketball coach and his players will tell you he was exactly that. He taught them many more things than just the game of basketball, he taught them about how to live and conduct their lives off the court as well. His enduring love for Wake Forest was because he believed in the principles the University stands for and the academic requirements all must meet to call themselves graduates.

It will be difficult for all those associated with him to get over his loss to the school and the Winston-Salem community but he would demand that we do. To Dino, Jeff, Pat, Mike, Maryann, Lynne, Tony and others in the WFU basketball offices, I send out my prayers and condolences for the immeasurable loss you must feel and one that all of us should also.

Once during a trying interview, I told Skip that I apologized beforehand for having to ask a tough question of him and he stopped me cold and said " Mike, don't apologize for doing your job, ask away" and it reinforced to me what kind of caring person he was to me and everyone he met. We also shared some light moments when he jokingly told me that the internet should be named the "dis-information highway" but always said it with a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face. Now that smile is gone to all his many friends and admirers but I don't think it will ever be forgotten.

While the wound is still fresh and the grief is great, we will mourn for Skip and his loss to the world for a time and then move on with our lives but we will be the poorer for having lost one so special. If this is the last article I pen for Deacon Sports, it will have been a great pleasure and privilege to have written it about Skip Prosser. Besides, I have a feeling that Skip is looking down on us and with a shake of the red hair saying, "Hey, don't mourn my death too long, but celebrate my life forever."

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