Joseph P. Prah
Born: 1950 (Uniontown, Pennsylvania)
Died: April 11, 2014 (Montréal)
Joe Prah was a key player on the 1971-72 McGill University basketball team, which operated on a shoestring budget after having been dropped the previous season. The McGill players wore mismatched uniforms and personal warmup outfits, including one player who preferred a paisley kaftan while Prah was known for a Kentucky Fried Chicken T-shirt, yet went on to win the Quebec championship and qualify as one of the final four in the national university tournament.
Prah came to McGill to pursue a master’s degree only to discover to his surprise he was eligible for further collegiate play. The 5-foot-10, 175-pound point guard had been a key player for the St. Vincent College Bearcats of Latrobe, Penn., from which he graduated in 1971.
The son of a coal miner, Prah was a star athlete at St. John’s High in Uniontown, Penn. His basketball coach was James (Lash) Nesser, a bear of a man who gnawed his knuckles bloody during games. In 1965, the St. John’s Eagles won the State Parochial Class-C championship, the school’s first-ever state title. Prah was crowned the high school’s basketball king in his senior year.
His arrival at McGill coincided with the suspension of the varsity basketball program. McGill Daily student reporter Ira Turetsky and future head coach Sam Wimsner decided to revive the program. Prah offered steady shooting —he rarely missed a free throw — and a sense of when to take control of a game. The duo uncovered some unexpected hoops talent on campus including Prah and fellow Pennsylvanian John Naponick, a 6-foot-9 behemoth who was studying to be a doctor.
The revitalized Redmen went 18-7, claiming the Quebec conference title in dramatic fashion with a 73-71 upset of the heavily favoured Loyola College Warriors.
Prah later coached high school basketball in Lennoxville, Que., where he also coached the Champlain College Cougars, a Cegep (junior college) team.
Prah died at hospital in Montréal after a lifelong struggle with common variable immunodeficiency. He was 63. He leaves his wife, Dianne (née Hunt), two sons, and a sister.