What started as a simple challenge from a college basketball coaching staff to its players has become a viral video basketball fans and even those who don't watch the sport can appreciate.
Colby College men's basketball coach Damien Strahorn and his assistants took note in film review of a loss early this season of how the players on the opposing team's bench enthusiastically supported their teammates while players on the Colby bench sat still.
The Colby coaches pointed out the difference to their players and challenged them to take a different approach. Three players for the Division III school in Waterville, ME.did that and more, organizing short comical cheers and skits to do to support their teammates during games.
As the season wore on, senior captain Jonathan Kalin and sophomores John Gallego and Michael Loginoff became more and more creative and entertaining.
The celebrations caught the attention of the family of starting point guard Luke Westman. They would record the games from the stands and they began paying more attention to the Mules' bench. Colby went 14-10 this season, a seven-game improvement over last season, including a win over Amherst College, which was ranked No. 3 at the time.
At the end of the season, Westman and assistant coach Greg Rosnick put together the compilation video that has now attracted attention from basketball fans around the world.
"We ended up setting up sort of three stagnant cameras at various spots in the gym, and we kind of used that to capture different angles," Strahorn said. "Luke would take the footage and create sort of a highlight tape from each of the weekends. As the year progressed as the bench celebrations sort of grew and grew, we actually trained one of the cameras just on the bench, just to capture because it was so funny what those guys were doing."
Strahorn said he is typically too locked into coaching during games to notice what antics his players are performing on the bench. He recalled the first time he really began to appreciate the celebrations was when he was alone watching film at one point during the season and he noticed his players doing the football field goal routine after his team scored a 3-pointer. Strahorn said he appreciated it so much he laughed by himself for several minutes.
"I thought that was pretty clever given both being worth three points," he said. "I'm up late watching the film and I see this and I just started laughing."
Strahorn said another favorite of his from the video is watching one of his players come out of a game frustrated and failing to acknowledge the line of his teammates awaiting high-fives. So Gallego handled the high-fives for him.
"I thought in the spur of the moment, that was pretty quick and represents sort of what we're trying to do with that team unity and whatnot," said Strahorn, who played at Colby and graduated in 2002.
So has this become a new tradition for the Mules?
"Certainly, I think sort of the atmosphere and the energy and what was created this year will hopefully continue forward in some form or another," Strahorn said. "Obviously it probably won't be exactly the same thing, but I think the overall attitude and energy surrounding the team will stay with us."
The very end of the video pokes a little fun at Strahorn, which he said isn't uncommon from his assistants and players.
"That was me trying to get a timeout late in a game," Strahorn said. "The guys love giving it to me a little bit. My assistant made sure he sort of put that in there at the end."
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