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 STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) - Their friendship was forged in sweaty gyms, on family visits and over almost daily phone calls.
In the close-knit fraternity of college basketball coaches, Penn State's Ed DeChellis and Wake Forest's Skip Prosser, two western Pennsylvania natives, grew into the best of buddies after meeting nearly two decades ago.
More than three months after Prosser's sudden death, there is an understandable void inside DeChellis as another season begins.
``You talk to somebody that often for a number of years, it's not easy to say, 'OK, I'm not ever going to talk to that person again,''' DeChellis said, snapping his fingers during a recent interview in his office.
Prosser died July 26 of an apparent heart attack at age 56. DeChellis had spoken to him the day before while the two were on the road scouting summer basketball camps.
The two planned to meet for an early morning breakfast at the Orlando airport; Prosser was headed out and DeChellis was coming into town.
They never met. DeChellis' flight got delayed, and Prosser had to head back to Winston-Salem.
DeChellis got the news that afternoon while sitting in a hotel room in Orlando. He spoke at Prosser's funeral the next week.
``I don't think he ever had a better friend in the business,'' said Prosser's son, Mark, an assistant at Bucknell.
Prosser and DeChellis first met 18 years ago during recruiting trips when both were assistants - Prosser at Xavier, DeChellis at Penn State.
They shared a common blue-collar upbringing: Prosser grew up in Carnegie, and his father worked on the railroad; DeChellis grew up in Monaca, and his father was a steelworker.
Conversations about prospects and basketball morphed into discussions about family, politics, and a common love for the Steelers and Pirates.
Their families went on trips. The Prossers would visit DeChellis and his family in State College.
Then there were the frequent phone calls, in-season or not. Best friends just checking in on how the other was doing.
So when the phone rang recently and the caller ID showed Prosser's name, DeChellis was at first taken aback. It was Prosser's widow using Skip's phone.
A clip from a recent magazine column about Prosser sat on DeChellis' desk. Without prompting, DeChellis also pulled out a stack of news clippings about Prosser.
``He had such a way with people in that you always felt like you were the most important person in the room when he was talking to you,'' DeChellis said. ``He kind of had that way with people that was really a gift.''
Mark Prosser said the bond the two shared is unusual in the profession.
``In this day and age when so many coaches hold things so close, they won't give up anything. Those two were full disclosure and spoke about everything,'' he said.
The friendship between the coaches has Prosser's family rooting for fortunes to turn around at Penn State, which has struggled in recent seasons. Mark said his brother, Scott, wears clothes with Penn State's logo more often than Bucknell's.
``We're pulling for them every time they play,'' Mark said, ``except for when they play Bucknell.''
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