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Jeff Prugh dies at 69; former Times sportswriter was coauthor of several books

He helped write books about UCLA's basketball dynasty and a controversial murder case in Atlanta.

August 11, 2009|Keith Thursby

Jeff Prugh, a former Times sportswriter and national correspondent who was a coauthor of books on UCLA's basketball dynasty and a controversial murder case in Atlanta, has died. He was 69.

Prugh died Saturday in Chattanooga, Tenn., of cancer, said his brother, Vince Prugh.

Prugh worked for the Times from 1962 to 1981. His sports assignments included UCLA basketball, the Dodgers and college football. With fellow Times staff writer Dwight Chapin, Prugh wrote "The Wizard of Westwood: Coach John Wooden and His UCLA Bruins," which documented the rise of the basketball program under Wooden.

The Wooden book, published in 1973, was an "unusual collaboration," Chapin said Monday. Chapin was going to write it but when he was assigned to the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany, he asked Prugh to team with him. "We never had a problem; it was a very smooth collaboration," he said. "Jeff became a close friend."

Prugh was born Sept. 15, 1939, in Pittsburgh to Harold and Janice Fryer Prugh. The family moved to Carter Lake, Iowa, in 1944 and Glendale in 1950.

Prugh graduated from Hoover High School in Glendale in 1957, attended what is now Glendale Community College and graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1962 with a bachelor's degree in journalism. He worked at the Glendale News Press as a copy editor and reporter before joining The Times as a sportswriter. In 1976, he moved to Atlanta to become the paper's bureau chief.

In 1984, Prugh wrote "The List" with Chet Dettlinger, which criticized police work and media coverage about a series of Atlanta black youths who were killed between 1979 and 1981.

"He was meticulous, tireless. He was always looking behind that other door," said former ABC-TV reporter Bob Sirkin, who met Prugh in Atlanta. Prugh later worked for ABC as an off-air investigative reporter, Sirkin said.

Prugh returned to The Times as a reporter in the early 1990s. He also was executive editor of the News Press, the Burbank Leader and the Foothill Leader and editorial page editor of the Marin Independent Journal. He wrote a biography of college and pro football star Herschel Walker.

Vince Prugh said his brother had completed a book about the Birmingham, Ala., church bombings in 1963, titled "American Whitewash," before becoming ill.

Prugh's brother is his only immediate survivor. Instead of flowers, the family asked that donations be made to the American Cancer Society. No services are planned.

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keith.thursby@latimes.com

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