OF ALL the tributes paid to Wake Forest coach George (Skip) Prosser after his death of an apparent heart attack last Thursday at the age of 56, none was more fitting than the scene that unfurled in front of the school's most famous landmark, Wait Chapel. At around midnight Thursday, hundreds of current and former students gathered to toss rolls of toilet paper over the trees lining the lawn. "Rolling the quad" has long been a traditional demonstration of support at Wake Forest, and Prosser loved to join the students in celebration of a big win. Thursday's rolling was a tribute to Prosser, but it also helped the community grieve. "This is support for us," said Wake alum Frank Johnson. "I had to get through this with somebody."
At a time when so many sports stories are driven by scandal (page 41), Prosser's death gave journalists, as well as his friends and colleagues, a chance to recognize someone for his genuineness, kindness and humility. But with so many eulogies focused on Prosser's compassion, it is easy to forget what a tenacious competitor he was. In 14 seasons as a head coach at Loyola (Md.), Xavier and Wake Forest. Prosser had a .666 winning percentage, led his teams to nine NCAA tournaments and is the only coach in NCAA history to take three different teams to the NCAAs in his first season at the school. Moreover, 83% of his players at Xavier graduated in four years, while every senior he coached at Wake Forest earned their diplomas.
In the end Prosser will be remembered mostly as a gentleman and a scholar, a thoughtful ex-high school history teacher who would rather talk about books than basketball. One of his favorite quotes came from Emerson, who said, "Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be." For his players and friends, Skip Prosser was that someone.