Villanova coach Jay Wright told him to stay out of the arena when the Wildcats face Seton Hall. Providence coach Ed Cooley just has to see him to know that the Friars have no chance against the Pirates.
No, it’s not Myles Powell, Sandro Mamukelashvili or Kevin Willard. He is Fox Sports broadcaster Brian Custer.
Custer has called Big East basketball games for Fox Sports since 2014, and that run includes a fair share of Seton Hall men’s basketball games. What makes his calls stand out is the fact that the Pirates have won every game he’s announced for them since December 23, 2016—a streak of 26 consecutive games.
With the college basketball season still a few months out from its proposed start date of Nov. 25, the broadcaster has been filling up the college basketball offseason by announcing Premier Boxing and college football.
However, the process has changed drastically due to COVID-19. Some of these changes include announcing college football games at the FOX Sports studio in Charlotte rather than being at the stadium.
On the other hand, when the media is allowed on site for an event, he and the other announcers must be tested for coronavirus and then quarantine until the day of the event. For a Saturday event, the media get to the site on Tuesday and have to stay in their rooms for the next four days.
Even with the sweeping changes in procedure, preparation remains mostly the same, even slightly enhanced.
“I think we’re probably even more prepared than any other time because any other time, I’m probably doing different things,” Custer said. “Now I’m just locked in the whole time. There is nothing for me to do but prep for the event.”
The biggest difference is when the clock starts and he has to start his call for the people watching TV at home.
“There are no fans and that’s different,” Custer said. “The atmosphere and the mood in there are different, and in some ways, you almost feel like, ‘man, these [athletes] are listening to everything I say,’ whereas before, these guys can’t hear anything because of the crowd.”
As much as athletes say they draw from the crowd’s energy, so do announcers. Without the crowd going wild, screaming at the players and dancing to the stadium’s music, broadcasters must find their own ways to pump themselves up.
The best announcers, Custer said, let the moment sell itself. With buzzer-beaters, last-second touchdowns and KOs, the crowd goes crazy, and announcers lay low and let the crowd do the talking. With crowdless events, that is another hurdle broadcasters like Custer have to overcome in a COVID-19 sports world.
Despite only calling boxing matches and college football games since sports have started back up, Custer said he is still excited for the upcoming Big East basketball season and has high expectations for the Pirates’ 2020-21 season.
“Let me tell you something,” he said. “Kevin Willard—or Big Willy as I like to call him—he knows how to recruit, and he knows how to muddy up a game. If there’s a team that likes to run and gun, he can slow you down defensively and make it their tempo.”
He said he is especially interested to see how ready seniors Mamukelashvili and Myles Cale are to step up after the loss of three senior leaders from last season and thinks Cale can be Myles “Powell-like” if he reaches his true potential.
Custer does not keep it a secret that he has an affinity for Seton Hall, and it is widely known throughout the conference. Days prior to Seton Hall’s upset over Villanova at the Wells Fargo Center, Jay Wright saw Custer and approached him.
“As soon as I walked in, [Wright] said, ‘I have Seton Hall on Saturday, and you better not be any-effing-where in the building,” Custer said. “Even if I have to call the people from FOX and tell them that you cannot be on this game, I will do that.”
The Pirates won, and Custer said, “The basketball gods don’t like ugly, and you were trying to be ugly there, Jay Wright.”
Wright and Cooley said they know how many special moments Custer has had the chance to call for Seton Hall, including Mamukelashvili’s buzzer-beater against Butler last season and Shavar Reynolds’ buzzer-beater against St. John’s the season prior. The one game he brought up before those was Powell’s 34-point performance against No. 16 Marquette in 2019 as one of the most exciting Seton Hall games he has been able to call.
Call it luck or the basketball gods doing their work, but Custer’s winning streak 26 games and counting. Every streak must come to an end, but Seton Hall are enjoying it while it lasts.
Brendan Balsamo can be reached at email@example.com. Find him on Twitter @brenbal.