Gonzaga beat BYU yesterday in the Marriott Center–one of the toughest places to play in the country–and I feel partially responsible for the Cougar loss. My friends and I were lucky enough to land some front row seats right next to the Gonzaga bench–not behind it, but right next to it where they could hear us as well as we could hear each other, that close (that’s us in the blue shirts just behind Pangos above). Games are always more fun when you feel like you’re in the action, but yesterday it was more than that. We truly were in the action.
We were heckling and trash talking like most fans would do in those same seats–all of us except for my friend Jimmy. Jimmy is one of the loudest, boldest and wittiest fans you’ll ever meet. He had Gonzaga assistant coach (and former Utah assistant) Donny Daniels, Gonzaga legend and now student assistant Adam Morrison, every dude on the end of the bench, every Gonzaga fan behind the bench and Zags starting guards Byron Wesley and Kevin Pangos all interact with or at least acknowledge him during the course of the game–and even after.
“Hey Sabonis! Watch out behind you! There’s a… oh, nevermind, that’s just your dad’s shadow.” was one of my favorites. (Gonzaga’s Domantas Sabonis’ dad, Arvydas was an NBA great who in many ways opened the door for foreign players to make their way to the NBA). Some other classics that got reactions were “Hey Wesley, I talked to your teammates at USC, they all hate you… (no reaction) Yeah, they said they’re glad you transferred cuz you suck!” Wesley turns and gives a big smile and chuckle right at us.
“Hey Morrison, you had the best 5-game career in the history of the NBA.” No reaction. Then Jimmy yells, “Adam! I just wanna know if you lose, are you gonna cry again?” (referring to the former National Player of the Year’s meltdown when the Zags lost a last second stunner to UCLA in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament Morrison’s senior year). Morrison turns and stares directly at us, clearly fed up with the heckling, almost with a sad look on his face. At this point I’m ready to put my head down and point at Jimmy like Jim Carey does in Dumb and Dumber when Harry tosses the salt shaker over his shoulder and hits Sea Bass, but we just stare right back and Morrison shakes his head and shrugs his shoulders at us as if to say, “Bro, why you gotta bring me into this? I’m on the back row of the bench with the trainers, you’re not supposed to even see me.”
Then Jimmy poked the bear–senior point guard Kevin Pangos. Pangos had been relatively quiet most of the night. He had just 5 points when a timeout was called with 15:29 to go in the game and BYU up six, 55-49. During that timeout, Pangos was the closest player to us with no teammates standing over him in the huddle–without question, he could hear us. That’s when Jimmy yells, “Pangos, you were better as a freshman! That’s sad!”
Pangos didn’t even flinch at the comment, but coming out of that timeout Gonzaga scored 14 points in the next 3:22 and it went like this: Pangos 3, Pangos 3, Pangos drives, fouled, hits 1/2, Pangos drives, fouled, hits 1/2, Bell Jr. 3 (assisted by Pangos), Pangos 3. Dude scored 11 of his 21 points in 3:22 and assisted on the only other Zags’ points during that same stretch. His third 3-ball and 11th point during that 3:22 was from the corner directly in front of us and put Gonzaga up 63-61 with 12:07 to play. And to top if off, he hit one more 3 from that same corner in front of us a couple minutes later and Pangos turns, looks right at us with a grin, sticks his tongue out and waves three fingers on each hand.
I immediately blamed Jimmy for what had just happened and tweeted it out so Cougar fans knew who was responsible. It was retweeted by a writer for the Seattle Times. Jimmy blamed himself on Twitter as well, Pangos himself favorited that tweet late last night after the game.
That was it, Gonzaga never looked back from there. BYU went ahead by one briefly when Bartley was fouled on a 3-pointer and hit all three free throws with 9:44 to play, but that small lead lasted for 16 seconds and was never seen again.
Moral of the story, pick and choose your battles to make sure you don’t wake the sleeping bear, or should I say Bulldog.