SPARTANBURG - The text messages and e-mails have peppered Mark Prosser for days now, as they would for any young assistant coach whose team is heading to the NCAA basketball tournament.
Many contain a common sentiment for Prosser: "Your father would be proud."
Prosser's Wofford Terriers are preparing for the first NCAA tournament game in school history, against Wisconsin on Friday in Jacksonville, Fla. It's a time of year that Prosser's dad - the late Skip Prosser - always cherished.
"This is what he loved the most about coaching - the tournament," said Mark of his father, a former Wake Forest coach who died suddenly in July 2007. "His dream forever was taking a team to the Final Four. He didn't get that, but he always hoped for it.
"Now for us, at Wofford, this is about as good as it gets. And my dad understood that. He knew how much of a big deal this is."
Skip Prosser's memory is fresh for his son, who has two photographs of his father on a shelf in his office. Scattered on the floor are new gold-and-black warm-up suits and shirts specially sent for the tournament by an apparel company. Prosser, along with director of basketball operations Andrew Seidenberger, is charged with sorting through it all.
Prosser, 31, knows the drill of this week. As a former assistant at Bucknell, he's been to two NCAA tournaments. But for most everyone else involved at Wofford, it's new territory. Coach Mike Young hasn't coached in the tournament before; nor have any of the players participated in it.
Prosser's previous trips were productive. Both times, the underdog Bison won first-round games - in 2005 against Kansas and the following season against Arkansas.
"I told the guys, I don't know how to go home on the first day, so plan on being there for a little while," Prosser said.
That's the kind of wry humor Mark inherited from his father, an intellectually curious man who lined his office bookshelves with Irish literature, often quoted William Shakespeare and once referred to skinny Deacons forward Jamaal Levy as "Ichabod Crane." "(Mark) has a lot of that in him," said Wofford forward Noah Dahlman, the Southern Conference's player of the year. "But he goes more with the movie lines.
"He's a true players' coach. Everybody has respect for the guy. He's easy to approach, and for some places, especially at this level, that's a rare thing."
That's a part of Skip that Mark is glad to have inherited.
"I hope I've taken a lot from him," Mark said. "I hope my relationships with my players are similar. He had a great knack for communicating on different levels, and it went beyond the basketball floor.
"He was supremely honest, whether it was with recruits or kids on the team, without being harsh.
"He saw the best in people. I hope I have that."
Then there is the physical resemblance. Mark's sandy brown hair isn't quite as red as Skip's, but he shares the same wide smile, high cheekbones and pigeon-toed gait.
"I see Mark walking into practice, and I'll think: 'There's (Skip),'" Young said. "He'll walk up behind me in the cafeteria line, and I'll think, 'There's (Skip).'
"But I think the real similarities are in his makeup. He's got the same demeanor as his dad. I saw (Skip) get fired up during games, but when it's over, it's time to be a human being again. Mark has that."
Mark is in his second stint at Wofford. After his playing career at Marist was cut short by a knee injury, he spent one season as an assistant with the Terriers. He went to Bucknell for five years before returning to Spartanburg this season.
Mark was scouting for Bucknell at an all-star camp in Orlando, Fla., in July 2007, the day his father died.
Young remembers sitting in the stands with both Prossers as they watched games the day before. Skip was especially interested in bringing a forward named Al-Farouq Aminu to Wake Forest.
The next day, Young and Mark again sat together, but Skip had returned to Winston-Salem to attend to business with his own basketball camp.
"I said, 'Where's your dad? It's like we never left. We should have brought our sleeping bags,'" Young said.
Mark told Young that Skip's absence was temporary: He planned on returning to Orlando that afternoon to continue scouting Aminu, who would eventually sign with Wake Forest.
Later, West Virginia coach Bob Huggins and Virginia Tech's Seth Greenberg pulled Young aside.
They told him Skip Prosser had died of an apparent heart attack after jogging. Dino Gaudio, Skip Prosser's top assistant and now the Deacons' coach, called Mark Prosser with the news.
"A bad day, a sad day," Young said.
Mark Prosser - who was called "Duke" by his dad - says he misses their daily phone conversations.
"Sometimes it would be two or three times day," Mark said. "But when he'd lost a couple of games, it might be a few days again before I'd hear from him."
Mark said he would like to be a head coach some day.
"He's smart enough," Young said. "He's got hopes and aspirations. There comes a time when you have to pull yourself up, and he's done that.
"I'm sure in quiet moments it's hard for him. He'd love to share this with his dad. Nobody in this world would be happier about what's happening here than Skip Prosser."