Veteran Wake Forest Coach Prosser Dies at 56

"I am devastated to hear the news about Coach Prosser," Paul said in a statement. "His passing is a tremendous loss for the entire Wake Forest community. 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. My thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Nancy, and the entire Prosser family."

The 2004 team reached the East Region semifinals, losing to St. Joseph's. The year before, Wake lost to Auburn in the second round of the NCAA Tournament after winning the ACC regular-season title.

USO photo by Mike Theiler

Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser during a May tour with the USO.

He was the only coach in NCAA Tournament history to lead three different schools to the tournament in his first season at the school.

South Carolina coach Dave Odom, who coached Wake Forest from 1989-2001, built a friendship with Prosser over the years as the men adjusted to their new jobs. Odom met Prosser soon after the changes in 2001 and urged him to retain Odom's administrative assistant, Lynne Heflin.

Prosser did and not too long ago, Odom said, the Wake Forest coach told his South Carolina colleague it "was the best advice you gave me."

Odom stayed out of things during Prosser's first season at Wake Forest to give the new coach time to adjust.

"I know he appreciated that," Odom said.

And Odom appreciated Prosser's class and kind words. Odom remembered how whenever Prosser talked about his early teams he made sure to point out how the previous coach had done a stellar job.

In time, the two would call each other for advice -- Odom often briefed Prosser on Demon Deacon alumni or personnel -- and comfort.

"If either of us would go through some bad stretches," Odom said, "I'd call him or he'd call me to say, 'Hey, keep your head up. Things will get better.'

"He was such a nice man. He was one of those Northern guys who had a lot of good quips."

Former Virginia coach Pete Gillen, who hired Prosser as an assistant at Xavier, 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 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 is survived by his wife, Nancy, and two sons: Scott and Mark, both in their 20s.

"Skip was a great friend and colleague who always had a ready smile," ACC commissioner John Swofford said in a statement. "I always thought of him as a renaissance man, he had such varied interests in life. He was truly a teacher, never forgetting the fact that he rose out of the high school ranks to become one of college basketball's best coaches and leaders. He represented all that is good in college sports and his loss is a very deep one. We will all miss him immensely. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Nancy, and his sons, Scott and Mark."

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."

Information from The Associated Press and senior writer Andy Katz is included in this report.

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