Saturday, April 28, 2001

Good bye, Skip, and hello

        Friends leave. That's something you learn as you get older. Friends leave, or you leave them. Either way, life is less than what it was.

        On Saturday morning, the pictures were mostly down from the walls of Skip Prosser's Cintas Center office. Five boxes of books were stacked by the door, tall as David West. It was moving day.

        You're not supposed to get too close in this business. But I rooted for Skip Prosser. I wanted him to succeed, to show that good guys still can. College basketball is a bottom-line, cutthroat business. Finding its humanity can be like hunting for daisies in sidewalk cracks.

        At Wake Forest, Prosser will do well at the important things. He will turn out graduates. He will help athletes become better people. He'll give them something to think about every day.

        Saturday morning, that wasn't much on his mind.

        “I'm suffering through a whole lot of separation anxiety,”
Prosser said.

Busken, Skyline ...

        He went to Busken Bakery Saturday, Skyline Friday night. Prosser has been in Cincinnati 15 of the last 16 years. This is a marriage not so easily dissolved. “I really love the city. That's one of the hardest things. I love Hyde Park and Mount Lookout. I love being able to walk down to the squares.”

        Some coaches aren't so consumed they can't notice other things. When I wanted a good book to read, I asked Prosser. When I wanted to know what to see in Ireland, I asked Prosser.

        When I wondered why a 19-year-old kid would leave college for the stresses (and riches) of the NBA, I asked Prosser. He always knew. So on Saturday, in the office he was emptying for someone else, I had one last question:


        Why do people leave a job and a place for which they are perfectly suited, where they are happy, to climb a different mountain where the view is not guaranteed?

        “I kept hearing, "Skip, you're set at Xavier.' Set is OK for some people,” Prosser said. “Who knows? Down the road I might think set wasn't all that bad. But at age 50, I didn't want to be set.”

        Throughout the brief courtship with Wake Forest, a line from an old, obscure Steve McQueen movie called The Reivers kept popping into Prosser's head: “There comes a time in your life when you say goodbye to what you know, and hello to what you don't.”

        So that's it. Goodbye and hello, an empty office swapped for a life made fuller by a new challenge. We all chase our own rainbows.

"Go for it'

        Prosser offered a stanza from the poet Robert Herrick:

        Gather ye rosebuds while ye may;

        Time is still aflying;

        These same flowers that bloom today;

        Tomorrow may be dying.

        “To me, that means, go for it,” Prosser said. “I've been able to gather a lot of rosebuds. Wake is another. I think that's part of living, of trying to make the journey as rewarding and enriching as you can.”

        Here's to you, my friend. Thanks for the years and the wisdom. Good luck with the new hellos.

        Skip Prosser reached for the telephone. Recruiting call, no doubt.

        “One more question: What would you like people here to say about you?”

        “That he stood for what Xavier stood for,” said Prosser. “That he was a good fit.”

       E-mail: Past columns at


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