Kennel Spells Fun: T-O-R-M-E-N-T

Feb. 10, 2000

By Dale Goodwin
Director of Public Relations

SPOKANE, Wash. - Former Loyola Marymount Coach Ed Goorjian couldn't forget his welcome to The Kennel back in the mid-1980s. The Kennel Club actually honored him with a spell out.

"We spelled `toupee,'" said Kennel Club founder Mike Shileds (`84), referring to Goorjian's hairpiece. "He went ballistic when he saw it. He came toward us after the game and we were ready for a brawl," Shields said. "But he simply said, `I wish we had guys like you at LMU.'"

That is a reaction common among Gonzaga's basketball opponents who marvel at the electric climate generated in Martin Centre by The Kennel Club.

Over the 15 years of Kennel Club existance Gonzaga teams have won 172 of 203 games here. In the past eight years alone the Bulldogs have won 92 percent of their home games, losing only eight.

"They have made Martin Centre one of the toughest places to play in the country (for opposing teams)," said head Coach Mark Few. "I tell our recruits that our building is nothing like Kentucky's Rupp Arena or UCLA's Pauley Pavilion. But it's every bit as unique and fun to play in because of the environment.

The infamous Kennel Club

"Their impact is evident. Look at our record here," Few said.

"I remember (former Coach) Jay Hillock telling me `You guys are worth 6 to 8 points a game,'" Shileds said. "I remind people that when we got this thing started in 1984 we weren't winning 20 games a season. Had we been worth 10 or 12 points a game we probably would have been 25-game winners."

Over the years The Kennel Club has evolved from a small nucleus of baseball players and Shields' close friends to a student-run organization that boasts 650 members and is governed by a board of directors.

"The thing I like about The Kennel Club is that it's pure, honest emotion, nothing orchestrated or university controlled. It's totally spontaneous," said Assistant Athletic Director Chris Standiford, who has, at times, had to tighten the reins on club members who occassionally step over the line of decency. "There are some people who would like us to control what they say. But that's not part of the educational process. You can't try to teach someone to be free-thinking and then try to manage what they say in a public venue. We hope we teach them what the perameters are and they react accordingly."

Said Few, "They've been very creative."

"When 7-foot-1 Santa Clara center Nick Vanos came to the line, we started humming the theme song from the Addams Family, and the Bronco bench was dying of laughter," Shields remembers. "Then we chanted Lurch-Lurch-Lurch, and Vanos had to step away from the free throw line (with a smile he couldn't cover up)."

A couple of coaches' sons have felt the piercing chant of "Daddy's Boy," coming from The Kennel Club. And when an opposing player came to The Martin Centre after being accused of credit card fraud, the entire Kennel Club section flashed credit cards when he was introduced.

"It's great when we can get into the heads of opposing players," said current Kennel Club President Kyle Kupers, who played high school basketball with Zag guard Ryan Floyd at Harrington, Wash., and grew up wanting to be a Kennel Club member after watching them perform at a Gonzaga game in the early '90s.

"When our team jumped into our section (following last year's final home game) to say thanks for our help, we felt real proud that we could help them succeed."

The Kennel Club's impact continues to grow, as does their decibel level. As KC alumni move on, they seem to find their way back to The Kennel on game nights as ardent Bulldog backers. That loud, enthusiastic environment in Martin Centre continues to raise the roof, and the hackles of opposing players and coaches who sheepishly venture into the house the `Dogs built. And Zag fans take pride in the part they've played in Gonzaga's extraordinary success. For in the 1990s, no other team on the West Coast, except UCLA, has won more games than Gonzaga. There's bite in this bark.

 

 

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