Last summer, upon my return from Florida, a friend of mine, Jerry Carleton, said to me, "You should take time to go and see Pete Prokop." So I did.
When I arrived at Pete's home, he took me down to his basement and we talked for some time. Pete was frail, but Pete was glad to share time with me as we talked about times gone by. Mind you, I had long ties to Pete Prokop. I played against him as a player, coached against him as an assistant at Champion High School in the mid-1960s, and listened to his advice as a coach at Liberty in the early-1990s.
After an hour or so, we got around to a subject close to Pete's heart, the naming of the basketball floor at Liberty to honor him for his contributions to Liberty basketball. With its mention, Pete got up slowly, went over to his desk and pulled out the article I had written some years ago, which was later published in the Warren Tribune. Through the article, I had hoped that the Liberty Board of Education would, indeed, name the floor, in the soon-to-be-completed new school, in his honor. The board decided not to do as I had suggested. But why?
As I walked down the hall where the Hall of Fame for athletes at Liberty High School is located, the one string that connected so many of those athletes was Pete Prokop. I make no claim that Pete was a "charmer." In his mind, the direct and forceful approach was best. Political correctness was something for the next generation of coaches to deal with, not him. Playing for Pete wasn't for the weak of heart.
But, I would bet that if those on the wall were given such a vote, Pete's name would be on the floor just a few feet away. A man, or woman's, life is made up of pluses and minuses. We have regrets and we have rewarding moments. In Pete's life, he shared much of both with the community of Liberty.
Pete was an educator and coach who earned the right to be honored as I've suggested. I know that as he held my previous article in his hand, he knew his time was limited. But, he held out hope that he'd live to see his name on the court. I do believe of all the honors he had accumulated, the floor naming would best speak to his legacy at Liberty High School.
Is it not time for the Liberty Board to re-vote this issue? Or is it not time for the Hall of Fames to step forward to "vote" for their coach, a tough minded, straight-shooting person who shaped much of their lives into who they are today?
Pete won't be there, but I'm sure Mrs. Prokop and the family would gladly represent him in his absence.