CULLOWHEE, N.C. – Former associate head coach at Winthrop University and 15-year NCAA coaching veteran Mark Prosser was introduced as Western Carolina University’s 18th head men’s basketball coach by Director of Athletics Randy Eaton on Tuesday afternoon in a press conference held on campus in the Ramsey Center Hospitality Room.
Prosser, who just completed his sixth year on the men’s basketball staff at Winthrop, has ties to the Southern Conference including two stints alongside head coach Mike Young at Wofford College, where he helped guide the Terriers to consecutive regular-season championships in 2009-10 and 2010-11. WCU is the second head coaching position for Prosser. He is the son of the late Skip Prosser, who guided three programs to a total of eight NCAA tournament appearances during his career.
“I appreciate everyone coming out today. It’s certainly an honor to stand before you today in what proved to be a perfect situation for me and my family,” said Prosser during the introductory press conference on Tuesday. “I wouldn’t be standing here without the three people sitting in the front row being comfortable. We knew very quickly upon our arrival here that this was our logical next step; this was home.”
Between four different NCAA-member institutions, Prosser has been an integral part of recruiting, developing and coaching a total of 28 all-conference players including two conference players of the year, two conference defensive players of the year and a combined eight all-freshman team selections. Teams he has helped coach have appeared in nine conference championship title games and have made five NCAA tournament postseason appearances, twice pulling off first-round upsets.
“Just over three weeks since coach Larry Hunter resigned, our search ends today. We didn’t find a guy; we found ‘THE’ guy,” said Eaton. “Mark Prosser has everything we were looking for in our next head men’s basketball coach: a plethora of experience assisting in building successful mid-major programs, both on-and-off the court; recruiting ties not only to the Southeastern United States, but also a strong history of recruiting nationally and internationally; a proven leader of young men, leading them in life as much as the game; a family man, who along with his wife, Emily, daughter, Ava Grayce, and son, Declan, has already become one of us; and a fit in our department, our campus, our community – in short, the entirety of the Catamount Nation.”
Eaton added, “Speaking with those in the college basketball industry who know the business better than I, or those who simply watch televised games, Mark’s name continued to come up. Essentially, this is a slam dunk for WCU men’s basketball.”
Prosser comes to Cullowhee after six highly successful years on the bench at Winthrop. Alongside head coach Pat Kelsey – a former player for and assistant coach with Prosser’s father, Skip, at Xavier and Wake Forest – the Eagles compiled an impressive record of 102-59 over the past five seasons, highlighted by four consecutive Big South tournament title game appearances and a 2017 NCAA tournament berth. Prosser helped orchestrate the offense of the 2015-16 Winthrop squad that ranked 13th nationally with an average of 82.2 points per game, including the 23rd-best free-throw percentage (74.9-percent) and an average of 8.9 made 3-pointers made per game to rank 32nd overall in the NCAA.
During his tenure in Rock Hill, S.C., Prosser led the development of Big South Player of the Year and All-American honorable mention Keon Johnson and first-team All-Big South selection Xavier Cooks. He also was the primary recruiter of Keon Moore, who set the school’s NCAA Division seasonal scoring record and was Winthrop’s first All-Big South selection since 2006-07.
Prosser began his first of two coaching stretches at Wofford College in the summer of 2002, when he served as an assistant coach for the Terriers in Mike Young’s first season as head coach. During that season, Wofford posted a 14-15 overall record, including a 79-77 win at Virginia Tech. In the SoCon, the Terriers were 8-8 and advanced to the quarterfinals of the conference tournament.
After one season, he parlayed the experience into an assistant coaching position on Pat Flannery’s staff at Bucknell University in Lewisberg, Pa. As an assistant coach, Prosser helped the Bison to a 99-57 record in five years, including three Patriot League regular-season titles and a pair of tournament crowns. Those squads averaged 20 wins a season while Prosser was on the coaching staff
It was at Bucknell that Prosser experienced the most postseason success as the Bison scored two NCAA tournament upset victories during his tenure. In 2005, the 14th-seeded Bison upset No. 3 Kansas in the first round, earning the award for “Best Upset” at the 2005 ESPY Awards, and finished the year ranked 25th overall nationally with a 23-10 record. The following season, No. 9 seed Bucknell defeated No. 8 Arkansas in March Madness.
In 2005-06, the Bison went undefeated in Patriot League play, becoming the first team to do so in conference history. The team was ranked in the top 25 for the first time in school history and featured Patriot League Player of the Year Charles Lee. For the NCAA tournament, the Bison were seeded ninth and defeated Arkansas in the first round. In the second round they were defeated by Memphis to end the season at 27-5, the best record in school history.
While at Bucknell, Prosser signed 2008 Patriot League All-Freshman Team selection Todd O’Brien and was involved in the player development of Lee, who went on to sign a professional contract with the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs. Lee was a three-time All-Patriot League selection and the 2006 Patriot League Player of the Year.
In the summer of 2008, Prosser returned to the sidelines at Southern Conference-member Wofford. During his first season back in Spartanburg in 2008, the Terriers set a school record with 12 SoCon wins. In addition, the team posted its first winning overall record since moving to the NCAA Division I level. The following year, Prosser helped Wofford reach a school-record 26 wins along with the Southern Conference Championship and a trip to the NCAA tournament.
All told, with Prosser on the bench in Spartanburg, the Terriers posted a 63-36 (.636) overall record, highlighted by back-to-back SoCon regular-season and tournament championships and consecutive appearances in the NCAA tournament. He helped Wofford to a then school-record 26 victories in 2009-10 with a second 20-win season in 2010-11 with a squad that led the SoCon in assists and was also first in assist/turnover margin. Wofford also was eighth in the nation in 3-point percentage and 12th in overall field-goal percentage.
Prosser was instrumental in the development of three-time first-team All-SoCon selection Noah Dahlman, a post player who scored more than 2,000 career points and was twice dubbed SoCon Tournament MVP.
A native of Wheeling, W.Va., Prosser played collegiately at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., before a knee injury ended his career prematurely. He began his coaching career as a student assistant coach at Marist until his graduation in 2002, helping the Red Foxes to a share of the Metro-Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) regular-season title in 2001-02.
Prosser and his wife, Emily, are the parents of two – a daughter, Ava Grayce, and a son, Declan.
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING ABOUT MARK PROSSER:
“Mark Prosser is a grand slam hire for WCU. He is a terrific basketball mind who is highly respected in our profession. He has been an integral part of our success here at Winthrop. Those that know Mark like I do would all agree – Buy stock in Catamount basketball!”
– Pat Kelsey, Winthrop University Head Men’s Basketball Coach
“Mark Prosser is an excellent hire for the Catamounts. Mark has worked incredibly hard to put himself in position for this opportunity and I could not be happier for him. Mark checks all the boxes that one would look for in a head coach; he is a hard worker, a high-character man, and an excellent basketball coach. I am happy for Mark and for Western Carolina.”
– Mike Young, Wofford College Head Men’s Basketball Coach
“Western Carolina has made a great hire in Mark Prosser. He is a bright and energetic individual who not only is a great coach, but a great person. Mark and his wife, Emily, will be tremendous assets to the Western Carolina community.”
– Richard Johnson, Wofford College Director of Athletics and former Terriers Men’s Basketball Head Coach
“Mark Prosser is one of the rising stars in college basketball. Western Carolina hit a grand slam! He is an excellent coach and will be a great role model for the young men under his charge. His commitment to values of character, integrity and academics make him the perfect fit for Western Carolina. The Catamounts will enjoy the ride he takes them on.”
- Dino Gaudio, ESPN Basketball Analyst and former head coach at Wake Forest University
“Mark Prosser is a fabulous hire for Western Carolina. Mark has basketball and high character in his DNA, and he knows exactly who he is as a person and as a leader. Mark has been very well-schooled, and brings knowledge, passion, and most important, vision. Mark is an outstanding young coach.”
- Jay Bilas, ESPN
“Mark Prosser is as deserving of a head job as anyone in the business. He has tremendous character, connects well with people and obviously knows how to coach. Western Carolina fans should be excited to have Mark on board.”
- John Goodman, ESPN Basketball Insider