Skip Prosser honored by Wake Forest

Photo/ Noah Sautter, WCU Athletics WESTERN CAROLINA head basketball coach Mark Prosser, who is a graduate of Wheeling Central, was presented with a framed picture of his late father, Skip, by Wake Forest University during their game in Winston-Salem last Wednesday. Skip Prosser was the coach at Wake until his death in 2007. This was just the second time that Mark Prosser had been back, as a coach, to Wake since his father’s passing and first with Western Carolina.

Mark Prosser had been down this road before.

But, this time was a lot different. In a good way, too.

The Wheeling Central graduate, who is the head men’s basketball coach at Western Carolina University, led his team into a game last Wednesday at Wake Forest University. That’s a place he used to frequent quite often to watch the Demon Deacons when his late father, Skip, was the head coach there.

Other than the outcome, which was a 71-64 victory by the Demon Deacons, Mark called the experience “surreal.”

Wake Forest officials presented Mark with a framed picture of his father prior to the game during a ceremony at midcourt.

“Wake actually called about it to see if I was OK with it,” Prosser said of the ceremony. “It’s just a testament to who Wake Forest is and how classy they are. I obviously didn’t want this (game) to be about me, but I was definitely grateful for the gesture.”

College head coaches do not come onto the floor until the very final few minutes of pre-game warmups, so Mark had plenty of time to collect his thoughts about what was going to transpire before the game in a moment of time by himself.

“I was able to remain composed (on the court) because of that time I took before the game,” Mark said. “I had some quiet time to really reflect and think about some things. Because, I knew once I got on the floor, I had to have all of my attention on an ACC opponent and the problems they presented. That’s where my dad would have wanted my mind, too.”

While dealing with the death of a parent never fully goes away, it does get easier to cope with. Memories eventually overtake the questions of what if or why. Those are the types of things that seemingly took their toll on Mark the last time he coached at a game at Wake.

It was the 2007-08 season and Mark was an assistant coach at Bucknell. The Bison had defeated the Skip Prosser-coached Demon Deacons in overtime the season prior and were scheduled to complete the contract in Winston-Salem the following season.

In July of 2007, Skip Prosser, while working out, died of a heart attack, leaving not only his family, but the entire college basketball world stunned.

So, in essence, just four or so months after his father died, Mark Prosser — 28 years old at the time — was about to walk into the building where his father had started to carve quite the legacy in a relatively short amount of time.

“When we went back down there that season, it was just a little too quickly (after his death) and it was hard,” Prosser said. “Being several years removed from his passing, I was able to enjoy this trip (to Wake) a little bit more,” Mark said. “It was really a surreal experience.

Prosser’s coaching career has taken off and blossomed since then. He’s been in the business for 15 years and is now a Division I head coach for the first time.

All of those experiences — along with the cliche that time heals all wounds — have helped Mark to persevere and continue onward with his career and family as his dad would have wanted. That truly helped last Wednesday evening take on even more meaning.

“Looking up and seeing the banner and being in the locker room and in the arena all together was a lot of fun this time around,” Mark said. “Wake has really been good to me and my family. They’ve just been very classy about everything.”

When the ceremony ended, it was back to work just like his dad would have wanted. His dad, however, probably would have called the outcome bittersweet.

Mark Prosser has his team currently at 2-6 entering a conference game against a Furman squad, which has already knocked off half of the Final Four field from last April.

“We just want to keep getting better and better,” Mark said. “We want to be playing our best basketball in January and February when it really matters in a one-bid league like ours. We’re getting better, but there are a couple of games, including the Wake game, that we’d like to have back, but we have to move forward.”

LOUISVILLE-MICHIGAN STATE LOCAL TIES

During the annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge that was held last week, one of the best games of the week unfolded at the KFC Yum Center in Louisville where the Cardinals hosted No. 9 ranked Michigan State.

While the game was very entertaining and went back-and-forth before Louisville pulled out an 82-78 victory, it was the number of local angles in the game that caught my attention.

Yorkville native Dino Gaudio, who had spent the last several college basketball seasons working for ESPN as an analyst, is as an assistant to Chris Mack at Louisville. Currently, the Cardinals are 4-2 on the season, but they’re coming off their biggest win of the season.

Michigan State has local flavor on its bench. Recently Tom Izzo hired Doug Wojcik — the former Wheeling Central Maroon Knight — on his staff in an advisory role. According to an article in the Detroit Free Press, Wojcik could become involved more in recruiting for the Spartans, too.

Lastly, one of the three officials in the game was John Marshall graduate Ted Valentine. The highly respected official has been working games at the major college level since 1981. He also worked at the Maui Invitational.

Staskey can be reached via email at sstaskey@timesleaderonline.com or at twitter.com/TLSportsSeth

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