Local News

A Day After Prosser's Death, Wake Forest Begins Grieving Process

Posted July 26, 2007
Updated July 27, 2007

— The campus quad looked much as it did after some memorable basketball wins at Wake Forest. Toilet paper hung from trees and fluttered in the breeze as if a traditional victory party had just ended.

On Friday, it was there for a different reason: to honor Skip Prosser.

The coach - who led the Demon Deacons to their first No. 1 basketball ranking three seasons ago - died Thursday of an apparent heart attack, leaving the university in grief as it tried to move forward.

"It's something that he would have enjoyed," said Patrick Crist, a senior history major. "I think this is probably one of the best tributes we could have given him - especially on such short notice. But I think it's something he's probably looking down on and appreciating."

Wake Forest athletic director Ron Wellman said arrangements for a funeral or memorial service are incomplete, though a campus prayer service is scheduled for Sunday afternoon at Wait Chapel. He wouldn't talk about the future of the program and its assistant coaches, or when he would be ready to hire a new coach.

"Our intent and goal the next few days is to honor Skip and support the family," Wellman said, "and all those other matters are being pushed back until after this most important matter has been satisfied."

It was clear the campus was trying to come to terms with the loss of the 56-year-old coach, who was found slumped on his office couch and unresponsive by director of basketball operations Mike Muse shortly after returning from his noon jog Thursday. Medical personnel performed CPR and used a defibrillator on Prosser, who was taken to Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center and pronounced dead at 1:41 p.m.

Dr. William Applegate, dean of the university medical school, said the events were "typical of a sudden massive heart attack."

Now the same quad where students used to gather after big sports victories stands as a tribute to Prosser, who was honored as the Atlantic Coast Conference coach of the year after leading the Demon Deacons to the league's regular-season title in 2003. The coach had even occasionally appeared there over the years to enjoy the celebrations.

Near Wait Chapel, someone placed a bouquet of white roses. A sign close to the quad entrance read, "Thanks for the memories, Skip."

"It takes time," said football coach Jim Grobe, who led the Demon Deacons to the Orange Bowl last season. "I don't think it can happen overnight. Skip was a bigger-than-life guy. Everybody knows those kind of people. They just have a twinkle in their eye. Whenever you were around Skip, he just made you feel good. You just knew you were going to enjoy being with him."

Dean Buchan remembers Prosser much the same way. Now the assistant athletic director for media relations at Georgia Tech, Buchan spent the past seven years in a similar position at Wake Forest and worked closely with Prosser.

Buchan remembered a shootaround at Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium in 2006. Prosser climbed into the empty courtside bleachers that are home to the famously rowdy "Cameron Crazies" and pretended to be one himself - a moment Buchan captured by taking a picture with his cell phone.

"Skip was definitely not serious all the time," Buchan said. "Inside the lines, when the clock was running, yeah, you didn't mess with Skip. But outside the lines, he was somewhat of a character."

The university said Friday that Prosser's youth basketball camp, scheduled to begin Monday, would go on and the basketball staff would work with the 170 campers in tribute to the coach.

But it's unclear how the program will proceed from there. Among the questions: What will happen with the strong recruiting class Prosser was building this summer? The commitments included forward Al-Farouq Aminu of Norcross, Georgia - ranked No. 3 nationally by Scout.com - as well as center Ty Walker of Wilmington, North Carolina, ranked No. 14 by Scout.com.

"The only two recruiting classes in the country that could be mentioned in the same breath were Wake Forest and UCLA," said Dave Telep, basketball recruiting editor for Scout.com. "They were the toast of the town at the midway point of the summer. They were riding high.

"There's no protocol for what happened (Thursday). As a game, we don't have a parliamentary procedure for when a head coach dies before you ever get to campus. I think right now in this part of the country, everyone is in a complete state of shock."


AP Sports Writer Aaron Beard in Raleigh, North Carolina, contributed to this report.


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  • gtbaumann Jul 28, 2007

    Skip's passing is a loss for his family, WFU and ACC basketball as well as those who had the honor to play for Skip. I first met Skip as a 14 year old, and played all 4 years at Linsly(Wheeling, WV) for him. Skip pushed all of us to do our best and beyond, and as a result, we posted a 17-3 record in 1979 with a team that included no AllStars, just a bunch of kids that wanted to win, and were fortunate enough to have a coach who taught us how to with hard work, integrity and sportsmanship. I last spoke briefly with Skip after Wake's exciting last shot win over Clemson in February. True to Skip's nature, he asked about my family, parents, business as well as the teammates from our Linsly teams...always thinking of others. I always thought of Skip as one of the 10 most influential individuals in my life, and will miss seeing him. My prayers and thoughts are with Nancy, Scott and Mark in their time of grief. God Bless! Greg

  • packandcanesfan Jul 27, 2007

    This is so very sad. The ACC as a whole is like a family. I know his family is devasted as well as his extended Deacon and ACC family. 56 is way too young to leave this world. :((

    The team will be devastated. I can imagine that their season will be dedicated to his memory and they may be tough to beat.

    One last time Coach Prosser.. "Go Deacs". :(

  • OhYea Jul 27, 2007

    May God comfort his family and friends. Let's hope he was saved.

  • allie19 Jul 27, 2007

    God Bless the family and friends of Skip. He was one of the best ever!

  • london12 Jul 26, 2007

    He was a positive, "glass is half full" kind of guy. I remember watching a game last year when Wake was getting blown out. But Coach Prosser didn't sit on the bench with a frown on his face. He was standing and walking the sidelines encouraging his players with a "everything's gonna be alright" look in his eyes and on his face.

  • sallysmom Jul 26, 2007

    There were comments earlier about the "undignified" picture of Coach Prosser. I, for one, love it! That's the coach I knew and respected. The passion he had for life and for the game shows. God bless his family and the WFU community.

  • Gnathostomata Jul 26, 2007

    To Coach Prosser's family and friends I can only reiterate what has already been stated. May you be comforted by the thought that so many fans in the communities across the State are saddened by the loss of a good man. Peace be with each of you.

  • DayumKrazy1 Jul 26, 2007

    this Guy was a class act, the other coaches, like Frank, Sidney, Mike, Roy, players, friends and colleagues know how to forget the battle in the ACC and show compasion when its warranted. Life is short, be nice and tell the ones you love you care often. My thoughts and prayers go out to the Prosser's, WFU and all the people whos lives were touched by Coach Prosser. I can relate heavily to this situation, its almost identical to a situation my family went through once a long time ago. Life is short, make the best of it!

  • diwanicki Jul 26, 2007

    My thoughts and prayers go out to his family,friends,coworkers and his team.

  • djofraleigh Jul 26, 2007

    By all accounts he lived life to the fullest and was a fine fellow. All in all, not a bad way to go.