In titling this piece, “Coach Ed.” I was mildly uncomfortable as it never occurred to me to call him Ed while one of his players. He was always “Mr. Prohofsky” or “Coach Prohofsky”… never “Ed.” Coach Prohofsky didn’t demand respect. He absolutely earned it.
I was blessed to have spent a significant amount of time under his tutelage both on the Track team where he was head coach and on the basketball team where he became head coach during my Senior year.
When I left Marshall-University High. I thought my athletic career was over. I attended Fisk University where my expectations were to apply myself as a student and watch college athletics when I could. I started playing in pick-up games in the gym and was soon convinced by the coaches to try out for the team. I made the team, started some games as a Freshman and went on to have a solid college career. I found it was the preparation I received and fundamentals drilled by Coach Ed that made me ready for the next level.
If Coach Prohofsky had an ego I never saw it. One characteristic that made him a great coach was that he knew what he didn’t know. In Track I threw the discus. I’ll always own the school record (mainly because the school closed). The discus is not a thing that comes naturally. You have to be taught. Mr. Prohofsky didn’t know himself how to make me better but he got me some slides so that I could work thru “the spin” and achieve more than I could on my own.
In Basketball, I was 6’6″ and played center. Coach was considerably shorter and would have more in common with a point guard. He brought back a former center to work with me. I learned to protect my shooting hand with my off hand when going up in traffic. I got tips on blocking out and rebounding. At Marshall-U my defense was initially a step ahead of my offense. I first excelled at blocking shots. I once knocked a shot far out of bounds in practice and was feeling quite smug. Coach stopped play, walked up to me and said, “You know if you’d caught that instead of knocking it out of bounds, your side would have the ball instead of the other team.”
When I knew he didn’t have an ego was during gym class when we were playing softball. Coach Prohofsky played fast-pitch softball in a league and after being encouraged; pitched to a few of the students. I caught a fastball and took it over the fence for a home run. Instead of being upset he was happy for me, offering encouragement.
I knew Coach Prohofsky as a Football coach, Track coach and Basketball coach. He was good at the coaching part as demonstrated by the State Championship he won in his third year as head coach. He was better at helping boys become men.
I think of the personalities and issues he dealt with. During my time students were dealing with issues of race, politics, the Vietnam War. Our lives were in turmoil but through all that, Coach Prohofsky was a constant. He led by example. He gave us respect even when we didn’t deserve it. He cared! Thank you Ed!