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Bona's Schmidt loses his mentor

Almost every coach in college basketball has a mentor, someone he calls in times of triumph and trouble. For new St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt, that was Skip Prosser.

The Wake Forest coach was Schmidt's boss for eight years, the first at Loyola and the next seven at Xavier. And they've kept in touch over the last six seasons as Schmidt served as head coach at Robert Morris, just outside of Prosser's hometown of Pittsburgh.

But there will be no phone calls this season from Olean to Winston-Salem, N.C. Schmidt has been left reeling by the death of Prosser, who died Thursday at 56 of a heart attack in his Wake Forest office.

"I lost a great friend but this business lost a great man," an emotional Schmidt said by phone from an AAU recruiting camp in Orlando, Fla. "He taught me how to communicate, that X's and O's are 10 percent of the job and 90 percent is building relationships with your players and knowing them as more than just players. It's so troubling that we can lose such a good guy."

Schmidt and Prosser helped Loyola to its only NCAA Tournament berth in 1994. The Greyhounds upset John Beilein-led Canisius, which was on a 16-game winning streak, in the semifinals of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament. At Xavier, they had six postseason appearances (four NCAAs) and helped recruit the bulk of the players that Thad Matta led to the Elite Eight in 2004.

"Everything that I have in this business is because of him," Schmidt said. "He taught me a great deal about basketball and how to be a coach."

Schmidt said he heard from numerous players and administrators from Xavier in the hours immediately after Prosser's death.

"You just don't realize the impact he had on people and it's sad you don't until something tragic like this happens," Schmidt said. "It's truly amazing that a guy from Carnegie, Pa., can have such an impact on this profession."

Schmidt said he loved how Prosser was more than a coach, how he developed from an ex-history teacher and would quote his favorite authors and philosophers.

"When he was at Wheeling [W. Va.] Central as a teacher, he worked at the Wheeling dog track for extra money," Schmidt said. "Wheeling dog track to Wake Forest. Imagine that. The greatest thing I can say is he never changed. He was still Skip Prosser of Pittsburgh and that says everything you need to know. He treated everybody -- from the janitor to the school president -- with the same respect."

e-mail: mharrington@buffnews.com

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