One year after it began, the Skip Prosser era at Loyola College is over.
Prosser, who erased a 2-25 season by guiding the Greyhounds to their first NCAA basketball tournament last month, has resigned as Loyola head coach and will take over at Xavier University, Loyola acting president Thomas Scheye confirmed yesterday.
The announcement that Prosser is returning to the Cincinnati school where he served eight years as an assistant is expected tomorrow.
Prosser is replacing Pete Gillen, who hired Prosser at Xavier. Gillen took the head coaching job at Providence on Wednesday, hours before Prosser flew to Cincinnati to interview for the Xavier job. Without interviewing anyone else, Xavier offered Prosser the position.
"We're losing a great asset and a good friend," Scheye said. "Once Gillen took the offer at Providence, we knew it was inevitable, and as friends, we knew we couldn't stand in [Prosser's] way."
Neither Prosser nor Loyola athletic director Joe Boylan could be reached for comment last night.
But Prosser telephoned his players to inform them of his decision.
"I've been hearing on the news out here that he [Prosser] was their [Xavier's] first choice, so it really didn't come as a shock to me," said freshman guard Darius Johnson, whom Prosser recruited last spring. Johnson's family lives in Cincinnati, where he is home on spring break.
"I didn't just come to Loyola to play basketball, but I wouldn't TTC have been there without him [Prosser]," Johnson added. "In the beginning of the year, I wondered if I could play at this level. He instilled confidence in me. It's going to be pretty tough. I'll still keep in touch with him."
"He told me that . . . this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I told him that I understood," Greyhounds junior center David Credle said.
"I think I speak for everybody when I say I'm happy for him. He did a lot for us this year. He taught us how to win. Next year will be another challenge for us, just like it will be another challenge for him."
Prosser successfully took on a monumental challenge at Loyola. When the school hired him last April 1, the Greyhounds had hit bottom after struggling through losing seasons every year since 1987.
During Loyola's 2-25 season, the Greyhounds lost a coach, Tom Schneider, and two star players in guard Tracy Bergan (academic suspension) and forward Michael Reese (disciplinary suspension).
Bergan and Reese rejoined the Greyhounds this season. With junior forward B.J. Pendleton, Credle and freshmen such as Johnson and Mil- ton Williams, the Greyhounds responded to Prosser.
They put last season behind them with a 7-3 start, then struggled against the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference before winding up the regular season with a 6-8 league record.
But at last month's MAAC tournament, the fifth-seeded Greyhounds beat three favorites, including Manhattan in the final, to win the title and advance to their first NCAA tournament as a Division I program. The Greyhounds finished 17-13, losing in the first round of the NCAAs to Arizona, which is playing in the national semifinals tomorrow.
"He can look back with great pride," Scheye said. "He raised expectations. But it's not just the NCAA tournament. It's the way he has recruited, the way he has worked with players. He brought a new level of style as well as enthusiasm to our program. We're betting we won't lose that. All of that has made this job a lot more attractive."