Remembering Skip

By David Scott - July 26, 2007


I had decided it long ago and I'm pretty sure there were more than a few of my usually cynical media counterparts who agreed with my thinking.

If and when I was fortunate enough to have a son; and if and when that young lad was talented enough to play major Division I college basketball; and if there's a place for him - that young man would be strongly encouraged to play the game for George Edward "Skip" Prosser or a man of his make-up.

With the news of Prosser's death being confirmed late this afternoon, no one's son will get the chance - nay, the honor - to again play for the Pittsburgh native who was the game's most likable weisenheimer.

Prosser very seldom talked about "life skills," the buzzword that so many inferior coaches toss around ad nauseam. But he taught them everyday. A voracious reader of books much more poignant than "Season on the Brink," Prosser often had his players lockers' festooned with important quotes or motivational messages. He taught basketball yes, but for those who would pay attention, he taught manhood, maturity and compassion as well. Having been around more than a few of these guys, those are not qualities to take lightly.

In that above-linked bio, Prosser said it best: "Coaching isn't wins and losses," he said. "It's teaching. That's the reason I got into coaching and the reason I've stayed in coaching. I hope that I remain in the business of education."

My first introduction to Skip came when he was at Xavier and Cintas Center was just being broken in. I was on a pre-season road-trip for defunct Hoopstv.com through college hoops land with colleague Dan Wetzel. The Xavier stop, as I recall, came somewhere in the middle of the barnstorming tour that put us in front of some of the game's biggest names in coaching. The afternoon of practice-watching and weight room-touring was highlighte by a pop at one of Skip's favorite hangouts near campus and dinner at another, where a roaring fire set the tone for a relaxed evening of talk and laughter.

We definitely discussed basketball that night but I distinctly remember Wetzel and I having a talk after we left Prosser of just how much more than hoops we actually discussed. Politics, literature - important stuff beyond the 2-3 zone. Prosser, in fact, was reading some impossibly long biography at the time and I also recall asking Wetzel, "What coach reads 500-page books on the cusp of another grinding season."

"That's Skip," Wetzel told me then. "He's not like any other coach."

In the ensuing years I would bump into Skip all across the map and it was always as if we had never left that cozy dinner in front of the crackling fire. When I last saw Skip, it was at the CBS/CSTV party during Final Four weekend in Atlanta. We shared a cold beverage, he handicapped the remaining field for me and we made some jokes at the expense of our mutual friend, Wetzel. I asked about a local kid from Boston (Anthony Gurley) and Skip said he was expecting big things out of the sophomore-to-be.

What I didn't ask him that night was if he could hold a scholarship for my as-yet-unborn (and unlikely) son.

On Thursday, it became too late to ask the favor. Fortunately it's not too late to salute the coach.

Posted by David Scott at 04:48 PM on July 26, 2007
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