Loyola finally finds basketball winner in person of Prosser

January 13, 1994|By Bill Tanton

The basketball renaissance at College Park is drawing national attention, but there appears to be another one in its embryo stage developing at Charles Street and Cold Spring Lane.

Everybody knows about the University of Maryland's 9-3 start and its 2-1 record in the Atlantic Coast Conference with wins over Georgia Tech and Florida State.

That's hardly shocking to those who have observed closely as coach Gary Williams has built up the Terps. But the turnabout at Loyola College has taken people by surprise.

Last night Loyola beat UMBC, 69-57, for its fourth straight win. The Greyhounds' record is now 7-3. That's not bad for a team that was 2-25 last year.

Credit for the upgrading at Maryland goes to Gary Williams. At Loyola, two people are responsible for the overnight improvement.

One is Skip Prosser, the first-year coach.

The other is the man who found and hired him, athletic director Joe Boylan.

Once-proud Loyola has been struggling in basketball for years. Coaches have come and gone. The last one to leave with more wins than losses in his stay at Evergreen was Gary Dicovitsky, who coached his last game there 13 years ago.

People who know the game suspected that things would pick up when Loyola hired Boylan from Rutgers. Boylan is a basketball man. He was assistant coach at American and Rutgers for 16 years. He knows the game and the people in it.

At Loyola the men's soccer and lacrosse teams have become frequent participants in NCAA championship tournaments. But Loyola has never been to the NCAAs in basketball, the sport with which it is most closely linked historically.

Enter Prosser last April 1.

Nobody around here knew Prosser, even though he had been assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for the highly regarded Pete Gillen at Xavier for eight years. Boylan found him, though. Already it looks as if Loyola has the right guy. Finally.

What was it that led Boylan to pick the 43-year-old Prosser from a field of close to 100 applicants?

"He played a key role," said Boylan, "in the advancement of Xavier basketball, a model program that has been to the NCAA tournament seven times in the past eight years and graduated 100 percent of its student-athletes."

Said Gillen: "Loyola didn't get just a good coach. They got a super coach."

At practice at Reitz Arena Tuesday, the day after a 78-68 win over Navy, a Loyola basketball player from the late '50s, Paul Dodd, was working out in preparation for Saturday afternoon's Alumni game before the varsity meets Siena. Dodd is one alumnus who has been at courtside even in the worst of times.

"This guy [Prosser] runs his team in a businesslike way," Dodsaid. "In a corporation, when there's a meeting you have an agenda: 8:15 to 8:45, research and development; 8:45 to 9:15, sales techniques; and so on. That's the way Skip runs his practices."

Sure enough, while Prosser's players raced spiritedly up andown the court, the scoreboard clock overhead counted down, as if there were a game in progress. When it got to 0:00, the squad went from one drill directly into another.

"Coach Gillen times his practices that way at Xavier," said StevBaker, Loyola's strength coach. "I've worked at the Five Star camp for five years and I see a lot of Gillen in Skip."

"Pete always told me, 'Be yourself,' " Prosser was saying after practice. "We both believe in up-tempo, running and pressing.

"We also believe the most important part of the day is from 3 to 6 in the gym, practicing. My staff and I spend a lot of time planning practices."

When Prosser arrived here, some people wondered if he really knew what he was getting into. Couldn't this job bury him?

"I never felt that way," Prosser said. "This is a great situation. Loyola has big-time academics. This is a great city. And our league [the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference] has a level playing field."

Prosser's philosophy can be summed up in four words -- the only words on the locker room wall: "Play hard, play together."

"These kids bought into everything," Prosser insisted. "They deserve whatever credit is due. B. J. Pendleton is one of the best workers I've seen in 20 years of coaching."

With former standouts Michael Reese and Tracy Bergan back on the team, the Greyhounds are expected to play well over the two remaining months of the season, despite starting three freshmen.

"Loyola College is synonymous with excellence, especially in academics," said Prosser. "Our goal is to become just as excellent in basketball."

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