Friday, July 27, 2007

Favorite memory: Positive Prosser

My favorite memory of Skip Prosser comes from what might have been one of his lowest moments in coaching at Wake Forest.

On Jan. 18 the Deacons played at Duke, which wasn’t nearly as formidable as in years past. It was a chance for Wake Forest to gain confidence after a 1-3 ACC start.

But Wake Forest matched its second-lowest scoring total since the ACC was founded in 1953-54, losing 62-40 in a bitterly frustrating performance for Prosser.

People will remember Prosser for his intelligence as a former history teacher, his sense of humor and the way his players enjoyed being around him. But because of all those qualities, it’s easy to forget how competitive Prosser was.

“Sometimes because a guy seems like the guy next door or the Sunday school teacher or the guy you remember teaching you English or history in high school, to be that kind of competitor is a little different from what you would expect,” CBS analyst Billy Packer said Thursday after Prosser died suddenly at age 56.

Packer said Prosser demonstrated that competitive spirit by bouncing back after two difficult seasons to line up one of the top recruiting classes in the nation for 2008. That spirit was obvious, too, in January in Durham.

“I can go in there and start a little campfire and a little marshmallows,” he said, “and we can all sing ‘Kumbaya,’ but the reality is the way we’re giving the ball to the other team and shooting free throws. . .”

That was the emotion talking. He stopped his criticism in mid-sentence and began talking positive. He said Wake Forest’s defensive effort had been pretty good most of the game.
He said freshman Ish Smith – who’d committed eight turnovers – was going to be a good point guard. He was trying to rally his players even though they were sitting dejected in the opposite corner of Cameron Indoor Stadium.

That was Prosser at his competitive best. That’s something the Wake Forest community lost Thursday and won’t easily replace.

– Ken Tysiac