56 Year Old Wake Forest Basketball Coach Prosser Dies

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) -- Skip Prosser, who led Wake Forest to its first basketball No. 1 ranking three seasons ago, died Thursday, the university said. He was 56.

No details of Prosser's death were immediately released, and Wake Forest athletic director Ron Wellman declined to comment. The school scheduled a news conference for Thursday night.

Prosser had been in Orlando, Fla., earlier this week for an AAU national tournament and had lunch Wednesday with South Carolina coach Dave Odom, his predecessor at Wake Forest.

Prosser spent six seasons with the Demon Deacons, winning an Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season title in 2003 and reaching the NCAA tournament in his first four seasons. Wake Forest went to No. 1 for the first time during the 2004-05 season.

Chris Paul, who went on to star in the NBA, was the point guard on that team.

"His passing is a tremendous loss for the entire Wake Forest community," Paul said in a statement. "He played a very significant role in my life and his influence extended well beyond the game of basketball. He taught me many valuable life lessons and was someone I admired with the utmost respect."

Before arriving in Winston-Salem, Prosser was head coach at Xavier for seven seasons and at Loyola of Maryland for one year.

Prosser had a career record of 291-146 as a head coach, including 126-68 with Wake Forest. While there, he coached future NBA stars Paul and Josh Howard, and was the ACC coach of the year in 2003.

Ohio State coach Thad Matta, who replaced Prosser at Xavier in 2001, called him "one of the all-time great people in coaching."

North Carolina State coach Sidney Lowe said Prosser's death was "a tremendous loss for our conference and for college basketball."

George Edward "Skip" Prosser was born Nov. 3, 1950, in Pittsburgh. A 1972 graduate of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, Prosser earned his master's degree in secondary education from West Virginia in 1980 while he was a high school coach. He joined the Xavier staff as an assistant before the 1985-86 season, spending eight years on the bench there.

Prosser averaged nearly 24 wins in his first four seasons at Wake Forest -- including a school-record 27 in 2005 -- with his up-tempo offense. But after Paul left for the NBA after his sophomore year, Prosser's last two teams struggled to a combined 32-33 record, including 8-24 in the ACC, with youth-laden teams.

But Prosser was excited about recent commitments from several highly regarded recruits, said Pete Gillen, who hired Prosser as an assistant at Xavier and coached against Prosser while at Virginia.

"He was a lot smarter than me at Xavier and he was twice as smart at Wake," said Gillen, who lost five of eight ACC meetings with Prosser. "I felt bad when he beat me. I felt bad when I beat him. It was a lose-lose."

Prosser is survived by his wife, Nancy, and sons, Scott and Mark. Mark Prosser is an assistant coach at Bucknell.

Jon Terry, a Bucknell team spokesman, said Mark Prosser had been on the road recruiting but was heading to North Carolina on Thursday afternoon.

"Everybody here has gotten to know Skip real well," Terry said. "Obviously it's tragic news for all of us up here, as well."

AP Sports Writers Aaron Beard in Raleigh, N.C., and Pete Iacobelli in Columbia, S.C., contributed to this report.


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