Thursday, March 15, 2001

Prosser reunites with old friend

Xvier, Notre Dame coaches meet on court for first time

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        It was Feb.15, and Skip Prosser was short on sleep and solutions.

        Xavier's charter flight back from Massachusetts had been especially long, so the team hadn't arrived back on campus until 4:30 a.m. Prosser was back in his office a few hours later, trying to rationalize the Valentine's Day Massacre the night before, XU's second loss in three games.

        He called Notre Dame coach Mike Brey.

        “We were struggling a bit; they were struggling a bit,” Prosser said. “I just asked him: "How long are you guys practicing? What are you talking about in meetings? What are you doing to keep them motivated?'”

        In the coaching fraternity, everyone has a few kindred souls for commiseration and consultation.

        “Skip and I have known each other a long time and are good friends,” Brey said. “He is just a great college coach.”

        The friends will meet Friday in Kansas City in a first-round NCAA Tournament game.

        It will be their first on-court meeting. But they have crossed paths in Notre Dame's coaching searches.

        Prosser and Brey, then the Delaware coach, were two of several men who interviewed for the job in March 1999, though it wasn't offered to either. That June, Prosser signed an extension on his Xavier contract, which now goes through the 2006-07 season.

        Last July, Matt Doherty left after one year at Notre Dame to take the North Carolina job, so Prosser's and Brey's names surfaced again in the media. Notre Dame pursued Brey, 41, and he got the job.

        “While I was at Delaware, I was involved with some other head coaching situations that were good opportunities,” Brey said. “But there were only two jobs that I've been in love with, and that's Notre Dame twice.”

        Prosser always declines comment on other jobs, though the Notre Dame post was thought to be his siren song. The rumors he coveted that job are the same ones that dogged Pete Gillen (a former Notre Dame assistant) during his nine years as XU's coach.

        “Notre Dame made a great choice,” Prosser said of Brey. “He's somebody whose opinion I respect a great deal. He's just good people.”

        Prosser and Brey became friends in the early 1990s, when Prosser was an assistant to Gillen and Brey was an assistant at Duke. When both became head coaches, they and their wives vacationed together on annual trips footed by Reebok, which sponsored their programs.

        Prosser tapped Brey for advice about Cincinnati in December, after the Irish already had played the Bearcats. He said Brey gave him some tips useful in XU's victory at UC.

        Brey has been grateful to his players for welcoming him. The Irish are 19-9, ranked 19th, and in the NCAAs for the first time in 11 years.

        “They made it easy on me,” Brey said. “Being the third (coach) in three years, they could have been less receptive.”

        XU and Notre Dame have met five times in Prosser's 15 years at Xavier — twice when he was an assistant and three times during his tenure as head coach. XU is 1-4 in those games, winning 75-60 on Jan.4, 1993, at Cincinnati Gardens — when Gillen was the coach.

        XU and Notre Dame had a home-and-home series in Prosser's first two seasons as head coach, the first of which was the Musketeers' first regular-season appearance on network TV (NBC): an 84-73 Irish victory Jan.21, 1995.

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