Talked to new St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt today about the death of Wake Forest's Skip Prosser, his former boss at Xavier, for a story in Sunday's paper. Schmidt, who was in Orlando at a recruiting camp, was emotional when speaking about his longtime mentor.
"In this business, he was my best friend, he was my mentor," Schmidt said. "Everything that I have in this business is because of him. He taught me a great deal about basketball and how to be a coach. He taught me how to keep things in perspective, about family, about being a good guy. Basketball is important, sure. He was a great coach. But he was a better guy. You can't talk to one guy that would say anything negative about him."
Schmidt said coaches at the Orlando camp are having trouble focusing on what they're doing and many are thinking about simply heading home. But most are staying because "Skip wouldn't want us hanging around feeling sorry."
I dealt with Prosser a lot over the years, starting with his 1994 Loyola team that upset John Beilein-led Canisius in the MAAC semifinals en route to the school's only NCAA Tournament berth and continuing with the riveting Bona-Xavier games from 1998-2001. He was quite a character, a history teacher with a voracious appetite for literature who widely quoted his favorite authors. It's hard to forget that gravelly voice always calling them "St. Bonnies."
Schmidt said Beilein was sitting two seats away from Mark Prosser, Skip's son and a Bucknell assistant, when the call came that Skip had died of a heart attack in his Wake Forest office. Wake had struggled the last couple years but Prosser was bringing in one of the nation's best recruiting classes. The program will go on but there is a hole in the coaching fraternity, and Mark Schmidt won't be able to dial the mentor I bet he would have talked to all the time in his first year of rebuilding the Bonnies.
(Photo: Wake Forest memorial to Prosser/Associated Press)