They’re not biologically related, but Ronnie Henderson and Ed Prohofsky are symbiotically as close as two persons separated by age and biological origins can be.
“I don’t know if I had a closer relationship [with any] basketball players than I do with Ronnie,” Prohofsky disclosed just before his and Henderson’s inductions into the second Minnesota High School Basketball Hall of Fame class this past March.
Prohofsky coached one of this state’s all-time champions, the 28-0 Marshall-University boys’ basketball team, in 1976. The diminutive Henderson, who averaged a double-double that championship season, was his point guard with a 14-assist game in the state tourney that year, which stood as a record for nearly 30 years.
“The unity, the ability to play with each other, to love each other — he made us like that,” Henderson recalled of Prohofsky’s coaching. “We shared the ball and made everyone [play] as one.”
The coach added, “There were good players on that team.”
Marshall-University High School, before its closing in 1982, was home for Prohofsky, a special education teacher and coach. Henderson, Faith Johnson-Patterson, actress Lea Thompson and writer Mark Frost are among its notable alumni. After University High merged with Marshall in 1968, the school became commonly known as Marshall-U.
Gym classes and basketball games were held at Pelk Gym on the nearby Minnesota campus; classes were also held at Pelk Hall and in the Marshall school building.
Almost as soon as Prohofsky and Henderson became acquainted with each other, the two became more like father and son along with being coach and player. They bonded and sealed a connection that has lasted ever since. Henderson routinely calls his former coach “Dad,” and Prohofsky easily lists him as one of his children.
“Ronnie is very important to me. That’s my blessing to have someone like Ronnie,” Prohofsky admitted.
“That main conversation I had with him, he installed so much confidence in me,” Henderson pointed out. “Yes, I thought I could play with mostly everyone, but after many conversations with him, that raised my bar, raised my level.”
Henderson went on to be a longtime basketball official. Prohofsky went on to coach in college and later was an assistant coach both with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Lynx. He left the classroom to serve as athletic director for Minneapolis Public Schools and is credited as one of the founders of adapted athletics (for students with physical and cognitive disabilities) in the state.
How fitting that this past spring, nearly five decades after their historic title run, the two men, the once-player and his prep coach, did one more thing together. Both entered the Minnesota High School Basketball Hall of Fame together.
“I’m here because of these kids,” Prohofsky said humbly of his Marshall-U team. “They always say nice things of what I did for them. They have no idea what they did for me.
“I’ve been in several halls of fame, and they all are special,” he added. “Not like this [one]. Ronnie going into this is more important. Ronnie is like my son.”
“This is a special moment, going in with my coach,” Henderson concluded. “What more can a player ask for? I’m in the Hall of Fame.”
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.