Proski Steps Down
In 32 years of Phoenix Suns basketball, "The Prosk" has missed just two games. (Photos courtesy of the Suns)
Joe Proski the first and only trainer the Phoenix Suns have ever had has stepped down after 32 years with the club it was announced today. Proski, a 33-year veteran of the NBA, was one of the longest tenured athletic trainers in the history of the sport. He will retain the title of "trainer emeritus."
Proski credits a pair of head trainers, Detroit's Jack Homel and the Cubs' Al Scheuneman, along with Cub equipment manager Yosh Kawano for his early and successful start in athletic training.
Reminiscing, Proski said, "My first big break was going to the Cubs at age 24 to fill in for Al Scheuneman who was injured in a car accident. My next great break was making the move with Jerry (Colangelo) and Ruthie (Dryjanski) to Phoenix to start a new franchise and be able to spend 32 years in the Valley of the Sun. After 40 years in professional sports with year-round demands and extensive travel, it's time to relax."
As the Suns' athletic trainer, Proski has tended to the day-to-day health of the team overseeing therapy and rehabilitation, and acted as the traveling secretary. "The Prosk" or "Magic Fingers," as he is affectionately known, has worked with 200 players and 10 head coaches. Amazingly he's watched all 2,789 regular season and playoff games the Suns have played. He missed just two games in person when his father passed away, but had them taped for his viewing later.
The son of John Proski, a longtime fixture with the Green Bay Packers, Prosk grew up in the business of athletics. After graduation from the Gus Mauch Florida School for Trainers in 1959, Proski started his athletic training career in baseball's minor league serving stints with the Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs. He went to the "big leagues" in 1964 spending three seasons with the Cubs. In 1967 he joined the NBA Chicago Bulls for what turned out to be just one season, as he joined Colangelo and moved west after Phoenix was awarded an expansion team in 1968. He maintained his ties to professional baseball working four years with White Sox AAA team in Tucson during the Suns' offseasons.
Commenting on Proski's departure, the Suns' Managing General Partner Colangelo said, "Joe Proski has been associated with this franchise since the very beginning. He contributed greatly to the franchise's overall success. He will always be part of the Phoenix Suns family and we will recognize him this upcoming season for those contributions and years of service."
Suns President Bryan Colangelo added, "Not having Joe day-to-day will take some getting used to. His magic touch and colorful banter will be greatly missed."
Respected by both players and peers, Proski received the first 30-year award ever issued by the National Basketball Trainers Association (NBTA) in 1998. He was named the NBA Athletic Trainer of the Year in 1988 and received the 25-year service award from the National Athletic Trainers Association in 1986. Four times he served as the athletic trainer at NBA All-Star Games ('71, '75, '85 and '95) and 10 years he served as the Western Conference representative for NBTA's Executive Committee.
One of the most colorful and accomplished sports personalities in the Valley, the Phoenix Press Box Association named him "Arizona Sports Personality of the Year" in 1979. He was honored as the first recipient of the "Warren H. Lee Arizona Trainer of the Year" Award in 1984, and in 1996 he was bestowed the Distinguished Service Award from the Arizona Athletic Trainers Association (AATA) for his contributions to the Association and the athletic training profession in the State of Arizona.
An avid car collector, Joe reconditions and shows automobiles. Among his show stoppers: a 1953 Bentley, a custom 1950 Mercury and a 1964 Buick Rivera. He and his wife Jan have two grown daughters Jolene and Jori. They reside in Glendale. Proski was born in Green Bay, Wisconsin in 1939, and his mother Dolly still resides there.