Xavier community celebrates the life of former men's basketball coach Skip Prosser at Memorial Mass

Prosser, 56, buried at Spring Grove Cemetery following Mass on Saturday, Aug. 4 | August 4, 2007

More than 850 people gathered at the Cintas Center at Xavier University on Saturday, Aug. 4, to celebrate the life of former men's basketball coach Skip Prosser. Prosser died on Thursday, July 26, from a heart attack shortly after returning from an afternoon jog. He was 56 years old.

Those in attendance Saturday included family, friends and more than two dozen former players, plus administrators and coaches from both Xavier and Wake Forest University, where Prosser had coached since 2001.

John LaRocca, S.J., rector of the Jesuit community at Xavier and a friend to Skip and his wife, Nancy, celebrated the 90-minute Mass, which was followed by burial at Spring Grove Cemetery.

“We mourn the loss of a great human being, a great man and good Christian who also happened to be a father, son and husband, a teacher and a coach who realized that life does go on after basketball,” said LaRocca.

Prosser was remembered and celebrated less as a coach than as a person of honor, integrity, faith and wit—as well as a friend to so many. “The reaction to his death has been amazing. Everybody has a Skip story,” said LaRocca, who went on to tell the story of a campus groundskeeper who stopped him last week to share his Prosser story. “Being head coach never stopped him from talking to the grounds people or the maintenance people. He talked to everybody.”

Pat Kelsey, a 1998 graduate who played for Prosser at Xavier and served as one of his assistant coaches at Wake Forest, delivered the eulogy.

“Everything you’ve heard about him this week and read about him this week is true, and then some,” said Kelsey. “On behalf of all the former players, trainers and coaches, I would like to say thank you to our hero, our leader, our mentor. We love you and we miss you.”

Prosser was an assistant coach at Xavier from 1985-1993 under Pete Gillen, left for a year to become head coach at Loyola College before returning to Xavier as its head coach from 1994-2001. He led the Musketeers to four NCAA Tournament appearances in his seven years and accumulated an overall record of 148-65, which is second for most wins by a Xavier head coach to Gillen’s 180.

“Skip Prosser is a much beloved member of the Xavier family, and we all grieve this untimely loss,” said Xavier University President Michael Graham, S.J. “Those of us who were privileged to know Skip as a friend and colleague will miss his positive spirit, energy and wit. Our prayers are with his wife Nancy, sons Scott and Mark, and the rest of the Prosser family.”

"Skip was a terrific person," said University director for athletics Mike Bobinski. "What we will remember about Skip is that he treated everyone with respect. He added so much to Xavier University. While he still had a tremendous passion for the game of basketball, what I feel most sad about is that I know how much Skip looked forward to the day that he could spend in retirement with his wife Nancy and his family. His successful record as coach speaks for itself. What he leaves behind is an example for all college basketball coaches of the right way to do things. I never heard anyone say a bad word about him as a person. He was a class act. I will miss him as a friend.”

Saturday’s Mass was held in the James and Caroline Duff Banquet Room, which overlooks the basketball court at the Cintas Center. Pictures of Prosser, with family and players, filled the entryway. Another picture of him lit up the scoreboard prior to Mass. A bagpiper led the recessional.

Mourners included former Xavier players such as Lionel Chalmers, Tyrone Hill, Maurice McAfee, Darnell Williams, Michael Davenport, Kevin Carr, Gary Lumpkin, Larry Sykes, Steve Gentry, Jamal Walker, Jim Kromer, Byron Larkin and Jamal Walker.

In addition to Kelsey, current Wake Forest and former Xavier assistant coaches Dino Gaudio and Jeff Battle attended. So did Mark Schmidt, a former Xavier assistant and current head coach at St. Bonaventure. Others included former Xavier athletic director Jeff Fogelson and college referee Mike Sanzere.

Video of Memorial Mass
View the homily and eulogy delivered at the Memorial Mass.

Photo gallery
View a photo gallery from the Memorial Mass.

Memorial Mass program
View a pdf copy of the program used in the Memorial Mass.

Photo collage
View a collage of photos of Skip Prosser through the years.

Photo collage 2
View a collage of photos of Skip Prosser through the years.

Photo gallery
View a collection of photos of Prosser from his years at Xavier, both on and off the court.

Related stories
View a collection of links to the Xavier and Wake Forest university web sites, media coverage and other stories about Prosser.

Guest book
Share your thoughts and memories of Skip Prosser.

Guest book comments
View comments from the guest book.