Monday, July 30, 2007

Remembering Skip Prosser

Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser’s funeral Tuesday evening appropriately is expected to be attended by many of the most influential coaches in college basketball.

Many have stories of Prosser’s wit and good character. Many spent time with him on the recruiting trail in Orlando on Wednesday – one day before he died of a heart attack at age 56.
But some of those who knew him best worked behind the scenes at Wake Forest. Sports information director Dean Buchan – who recently left Wake Forest for Georgia Tech – is one friend outside the spotlight who cared deeply for Prosser.

Buchan remembers Prosser as a family man who would complete his post-game talks with his players and immediately ask for the score of a Bucknell game. His son, Mark, is an assistant coach at Bucknell.

Two specific post-game scenarios always will come to mind when Buchan thinks of Prosser.

The smile on Prosser’s face as he entered the locker room after a 90-80 victory at Wisconsin in 2002-03 is something Buchan never will forget. The win helped solidify the Deacons’ belief in themselves en route to their first outright, first-place ACC finish in 41 years. Buchan described the celebration as a “mosh pit” Prosser was thrilled to join.

After Wake Forest’s captivating, 119-114, triple-overtime victory over North Carolina in 2003-04, Buchan had a rare suggestion for Prosser’s post-game news conference. Buchan suggested that Prosser mention that after the ACC’s 50th anniversary, this was the first game of the next 50 years. And if the next 50 years were going to be played like that, they would be magnificent.

“In Skip fashion he looked at me and said, ‘Are you crazy? I’m not saying anything like that,’ ” Buchan said. “And he went to the press conference and his first statement was exactly what I said.”

One of Buchan’s favorite Prosser-isms illustrated his humility and appreciation for other sports at Wake Forest.

“We’re just trying to build a program our field hockey team can be proud of,” Prosser would say.
Prosser did that – and a whole lot more – in a memorable six-year tenure at Wake Forest.

– Ken Tysiac

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

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Curry shows more than a jumper

Davidson's Stephen Curry is known for his 3-point shooting. He set a NCAA record with 122 3-pointers as a freshman, and I saw him swish 35-footers in a game of "PIG" against his father, former Charlotte Hornet Dell Curry, back in March.

But Curry's shown more than a sweet stroke at the U19 World Championships this month.

Yes, Curry is shooting 55 percent from the field, including 8-of-16 on 3-pointers, but he's done a lot more than that. He's playing less than half of the 40-minute games in Serbia, but he's still averaging four rebounds, three assists and three steals.

He's also become a better ballhandler - Curry averaged a turnover for every assist his freshman season at Davidson, but he's made only six turnovers (with 17 assists) in helping the U.S. team win its first six games.

Curry is still the team's second-leading scorer at more than 10 points a game, but his all-around play could be a sign of things to come for Davidson this season. Davidson fans can see the new Curry online starting Friday at 7:30 a.m. (EST), when the U.S. team faces Argentina in the quarterfinals.

The quarterfinal game will be broadcast online at

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Davidson's Curry contributes to rout

Davidson's Stephen Curry had nine points and five assists in the USA Men’s U19 team's 118-56 win against Mali on Thursday in the opening game of the FIBA World Championship in Novi Sad, Serbia.

Curry had five fouls in 13 minutes, but was 3-of-4 from the field.

The U.S. team, which led 34-5 by the end of the first quarter, will play China at 2:30 p.m. Friday.

--Kevin Cary

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Davidson set to play UCLA

Davidson has another high-profile opponent on its 2007-08 men's basketball schedule. The Wildcats will play UCLA as part of the Wooden Classic in Anaheim, Calif. Dec. 8.

Davidson - which has every scholarship player returning from a 29-5 team - has already scheduled games at Charlotte Bobcats Arena against North Carolina (Nov. 14) and Duke (Dec. 1). The Wildcats also have road games against Charlotte (Dec. 5) and N C. State (Dec. 21).

Davidson has not played UCLA since 1975. The Bruins finished 30-6 last season and reached the Final Four for the second straight year. UCLA has point guard Darren Collison and forward Josh Shipp returning, and also has Gatorade high school boy's basketball player of the year Kevin Love entering the lineup.
--Kevin Cary

It's tough to be a basketball recruit in July

Watching the tired expressions and weary-legged jump shots on the final evening of Nike's elite LeBron James Skills Academy camp brought to mind something Charlotte's Jay Bilas said earlier in the camp.

Some players are scheduled to go straight to Atlanta for the Peach Jam Tournament. Later in the month they will compete in a huge AAU event in Las Vegas.

Bilas, the ESPN analyst and former Duke player, said the July schedule is too intense for high school players.

"There's no way on God's green earth that it's right to have kids gone from home and away from their high school coaches and their home base for a whole month," Bilas said.

Earlier in the summer, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski made similar comments. One problem is the NCAA's well-intentioned legislation to limit the coaches' summer player evaluation period to July 6-15 and July 22-31.

That causes the top event organizers to schedule their camps and tournaments in July in order to get college coaches in the stands at their events. Players want to attend all those events to get exposure.

"For a high school kid, being on the road (for all of July) with nothing but basketball, that's a lot," Bilas said.

Perhaps Krzyzewski and the ACC can take the lead in creating a staggered summer evaluation period that will be gentler on young players' legs.

- Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Hiring of older coaches makes sense for mid-majors

Old ACC basketball coaches don't retire.

They go to the beach in South Carolina and continue coaching.

A year ago, the College of Charleston hired Bobby Cremins, who turns 60 on July 4. Now Coastal Carolina has hired Cliff Ellis, 61, after Buzz Peterson left to become player personnel director for the Charlotte Bobcats.

Who's next? Dean Smith at The Citadel? Bucky Waters at Charleston Southern?


But hiring older coaches makes sense for some of these mid-major programs. Cremins and Ellis - who both worked as television analysts after leaving Georgia Tech and Auburn, respectively, provide instant name recognition.

They also understand the role of the media. A year ago at the Nike All-America camp in Indianapolis, Cremins invited me to ride with him in a limousine taking him to a television studio where he'd been asked to film a segment for a national cable sports news show.

He spoke openly about his passion for returning to coaching and the wild process that led to his accepting the job after former Winthrop coach Gregg Marshall backed out.

While Cremins was learning the names of the top high school players in the nation, he made time for interviews because even a highly respected mid-major like Charleston needs all the exposure it can get.

Cremins also coached Charleston to a 22-11 record and the Southern Conference tournament finals in his first season.

Critics say older coaches won't stay long before retiring. But successful young coaches also often leave mid-majors - for new jobs - as Peterson did after two seasons at Coastal Carolina.

And with living close to the beach as an incentive, Cremins and Ellis might be persuaded to stay longer.

- Ken Tysiac

Monday, July 2, 2007

Stephen Curry impressive for USA U19

Davidson’s Stephen Curry is a little taller, a little more focused, and maybe even a little better.

That’s the impression the guard is making with the USA Basketball U19 team. He scored 16 points in a 91-75 exhibition win Sunday night against the Chinese national team, making 5-of-6 shots including all four three-point attempts.

That kind of shooting is nothing new for Curry, who set an NCAA record for 3-pointers by a freshman last season with 122. But what’s new is some added height - Curry told me last week he’s grown two inches since the start of his freshman season - and a new focus.

"I really want to work on my decision-making and cut down on my turnovers while I am here," said Curry, who is now 6-foot-3. "I really think I am a lot stronger and a lot more powerful. But I want people to know that I am not just a one-year wonder."

Curry said he’s learned that he can’t take it easy on the court anymore. Especially now that his team might be ranked in the Top 25 to start the season.

"We know we won’t be surprising anybody this season," Curry said of Davidson, which returns all 11 scholarship players from a 29-5 team.
Neither will Curry, who appears primed for a little more exposure.

"It’s pretty flattering to hear your name mentioned with the great players," he said. "But I still have a lot to do." - Kevin Cary