It won’t be the familiar setting of the 6,000-seat home Gonzaga basketball calls the Kennel on Thursday at the SAP Center in San Jose, California.
But a crucial part of the Kennel will be in attendance, and ramped up, when the Zags take on West Virginia Thursday evening.
A section of Gonzaga’s band, 29 members to be exact, travelled with the team and boosters to San Jose on Tuesday.
Along with their instruments, the band has brought the Kennel’s chants used to distract opponents and support the Zags during home games.
The duty of selecting a specific chant falls on the “Fungineer”, Paul Bickel, who assumed the role via an upperclassmen who held the position before Bickel. The job title fits for the Gonzaga junior, who is also an engineering major.
“I think we definitely contribute to making them miss maybe – I don’t know, I’d say three to five baskets per game. Depending on the level of the team,” Bickel said.
His role is to ensure the band is engaged throughout the game. Recently, Bickel has also striven to engage the Gonzaga fans in attendance by using cheers such as “On Your Feet” or “Go. Gonzaga. G-O-N-Z-A-G-A.”
“I’ve got the whole band looking at me telling them what to do,” Bickel said. “I have to know basketball, I have to know the calls, I have to be able to see over everyone.”
There are chants for turnovers, traveling violations, opponents’ free-throw attempts, and a few more for other various aspects of the game. Bickel says they have 10 to 20 total chants, which are situational dependent and can be used as attempts to distract the opposing team along with others that support the Bulldogs.
One popular chant by the band is to count down the shot clock with the incorrect time to potentially force a shot-clock violation or an errant shot by the Zags’ opponent.
“The younger teams who come in who aren’t as confident, we get them all the time especially with shot violations,” Bickel said. “It’s just really great to see their face because they just look around and they are like ‘ah, better shoot’ and just like (shoot) a super deep three and completely miss.”
Bickel’s favorite from the repertoire of chants is shouting “You’re not gonna make it” to the melody of Twisted Sister’s song “We’re not gonna take it” during the oppositions’ free throws.
However, Bickel said some of the more experienced teams become acclimated to the false shot-clock countdown, along with some of the other various distractions the band members attempt.
Bickel said last weekend Northwestern fell for their tricks a few times in the first half. He is hoping to continue his success this weekend.