Shtick On The Sidelines: College Basketball's Most Famous Bench The men's basketball team at Monmouth University has been scoring upset victories. But it's the team's bench players who have been making the highlight reels with their choreographed celebrations.
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Shtick On The Sidelines: College Basketball's Most Famous Bench

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Shtick On The Sidelines: College Basketball's Most Famous Bench

Shtick On The Sidelines: College Basketball's Most Famous Bench

Shtick On The Sidelines: College Basketball's Most Famous Bench

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/460784598/460784599" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Players on Monmouth University's bench have created over-the-top choreographed celebrations for plays. Here, Tyler Robinson pretends to be dead, while teammates Louie Pillari, Dan Pillari and Greg Noack react in horror. Mel Evans/AP hide caption

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Mel Evans/AP

Players on Monmouth University's bench have created over-the-top choreographed celebrations for plays. Here, Tyler Robinson pretends to be dead, while teammates Louie Pillari, Dan Pillari and Greg Noack react in horror.

Mel Evans/AP

It turns out bench players can steal the spotlight.

They're doing it at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, N.J.

The basketball team there is off to a hot start and its benchwarmers have been winning fans — and fame — with their over-the-top, elaborately choreographed celebrations.

"We got the pirate ship, the trophy fish, the heart attack, we got some new ones ..." says sophomore guard Dan Pillari.

There's the joust, which features Dan and his teammate and cousin, Louie Pillari.

"We're horses," Louie says. "Dan goes on the other kid's back and Tyler goes on my back and we, like, joust." It's like a medieval equestrian duel right there on the sideline in the middle of a game.

Then there's their masterpiece — a re-enactment of a real-life masterpiece, Michelangelo's The Creation of Adam.

Along with Tyler Robinson and Greg Noack, Dan and Louie form what USA Today says is the best bench in basketball.

They meet before games and bounce around new ideas for celebrations.

"We write them down on a list and Greg Noack keeps the list in his sock. He'll look at his sock real quick and be like 'Next big moment, this is what we're doing,' " Dan Pillari says.

So during a game against Rutgers, when Monmouth drained a 3-pointer, three guys dropped to their knees, and reared up like horses. A fourth was in the back, holding imaginary reins.

On the Big Ten Network though, there was some confusion over the celebration. "I don't understand what went on over on the bench after that 3-point shot," the announcer said. "I didn't understand that routine."

He wasn't feeling it.

OK, it was supposed to be Santa's sleigh, pulled by reindeer. They can't all be winners.

But Dan Pillari says the key is to commit 100 percent.

"When Tyler Robinson improvised in Florida, he died on the court, he was fully dead. Closed his eyes, I was over his body crying, getting really into it," Dan says.

And they stay topical, too. Over the weekend, the guys re-enacted a famous lightsaber battle from Star Wars.

YouTube

These antics, which were shared across social media as Vines and GIFs, have led to a ton of media attention. (It helps that their teammates have been getting it done on the court with a handful of high-profile victories.)

The bench guys have played charades on national TV, they've got their own Twitter handle and the NCAA says as long as they stay off the court, it's all in good fun.

"I mean, we're just all really good friends, to be honest," Noack says.

He says his coach loves the shtick. So do his teammates.

"It's really easy to feed off of that and to create energy for someone else that you're just, you love them so much, and it's just like, man I just want to support you. So it's really easy," Noack says.