One minute, Skip Prosser was on his way to watch the Final Four in Charlotte, N.C. The next minute, the phone rang and he was headed to Cincinnati. And within hours, Xavier University had regained an old friend, while Loyola College had lost the coach that put its beleaguered basketball program back on its feet this season.
Prosser, who spent eight years as the top assistant at Xavier before taking over at Loyola, will be introduced at a Xavier news conference today as the new head coach of the Musketeers.
Prosser replaces Pete Gillen, the coach who gave Prosser his first college job and became the head coach at Providence on Wednesday. Together, Gillen and Prosser led Xavier to 177 victories, six Midwestern Collegiate Conference championships and seven NCAA tournament appearances.
"It's amazing what can take place in 72 hours," Prosser said. "Three days ago, this [the Xavier job] was the furthest thing from my mind. When Coach [Gillen] left, they [Xavier] called and everything accelerated."
Although Xavier is withholding comment until today's news conference, Prosser certainly was on the minds of the Musketeers. Shortly after Gillen's announcement, Loyola's athletic department received a fax from the "The Rat Pack," a group of rabid Xavier fans. The fax read, "Dear Coach Prosser. Please come back to Xavier. We need you."
Yesterday, Prosser prepared for his second flight to Cincinnati in three days. He also was hoping to notify the few Loyola players he had failed to reach Thursday with the news.
"It's always tough to leave players. It was hard for me to go from one high school to another in Wheeling, West Virginia," Prosser said. "They [the Loyola players] are the reason this situation has come up. It was the effort they gave, in taking me along to the [NCAA] tournament. These kids have been through some tough times. That weighed heavily on my mind."
Before Prosser arrived, the Greyhounds hadn't had a winning season in six years and had just gone through a 2-25 nightmare. As a Division I program, they had never qualified for an NCAA tournament. Prosser guided them to a 17-13 record, which included an unlikely victory in the Metro Atlantic Athletic tournament final against Manhattan, 80-75, that sent the Greyhounds to the NCAA tournament.
"Skip has had a dramatic impact on this campus. He has changed the whole perception of our basketball program," Loyola athletic director Joe Boylan said, while awaiting Prosser's decision on Thursday. "If you get a good person at this level, you know it's going to be difficult to keep him. There might be better coaches, but there aren't better people."
Said Gillen: "Skip is a great choice for the job. He's been there. He knows a lot of the players. He helped recruit a lot of the guys who are still there. He's the perfect fit."
Boylan could not be reached for comment regarding possible successors to Prosser, although he had said Thursday that if Prosser decided to leave Loyola, La Salle assistant Joe Mihalic, who was edged out by Prosser last year, would be considered.