Wake Forest University’s head basketball coach, Skip Prosser, died the other day of an apparent heart attack. He was only 56.
Tributes are pouring in. The university community obviously grieves the tragic loss. The coaching fraternity is heartbroken. Dick Vitale, whose entire life seems to be college hoops, was stunned. And so on.
As those around me know, I wasn’t a big fan of Prosser as a coach, but really, none of that matters right now. Ultimately, it never mattered, because as a Wake alum it has always mattered more to me that we do things the right way. We love sports passionately and we want to win, although historically we’re better known for not winning. But I’ve always been incredibly proud of the fact that you don’t hear about Wake when the subject turns to all that’s wrong in American sports these days. It’s a D1 sports program and I’m not naive, but in truth the Deacons simply have a history of staying out of trouble. No nasty NCAA sanctions. Precious few highly publicized scandals. And we’ve certainly developed our share of academically gifted athletes. The face of Wake sports is Tim Duncan, widely regarded as one the NBA’s most outstanding citizens. Etc.
So when I think about Prosser’s legacy, I’m very proud to read that he represented the school with integrity. I never met him, but the people I know who are familiar with the program spoke highly of his intelligence and the way he conducted business.
I’d like to win every game with a roster full of Rhodes Scholars, but when push comes to shove I’d rather lose with grace than win dirty. Prosser won more than he lost, and in all cases he did so with class and dignity. For that I was always grateful.
If the opinion of one alumnus matters, I’d encourage Wake to seek out a replacement who’s committed first and foremost to promoting edication and character. With luck, he’ll be a damned fine strategist, as well.
We wish the best to the Wake community and to Prosser’s friends and family.