Wake Forest campus grieving following the loss of Prosser

Updated: July 28, 2007, 9:03 PM ET
Associated Press

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- 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.

Prosser Services Scheduled

Arrangements have been made for Skip Prosser. Prosser's attorney, Dennis Coleman, said Saturday there will be a viewing held from 2-9 p.m. Monday at the Holy Family Catholic Church in Clemmons, N.C., just outside of Winston-Salem. A funeral mass, at the same church, will be held on Tuesday at 6 p.m. Prosser will be buried in Cincinnati in a private ceremony.

Wake Forest assistant coaches will serve as pallbearers while current and incoming basketball team members will serve as honorary pallbearers, the school said in a news release.

"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."

But 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 the campus' Wait Chapel, someone placed a bouquet of white roses. A sign near 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.

It's unclear how the basketball program will proceed. Wellman said Thursday night it was too soon to consider the next coach.

"We are about the business of honoring Skip right now," he said.

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, Ga. -- ranked No. 3 nationally by Scout.com -- as well as center Ty Walker of Wilmington, N.C., 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."


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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