Jamal McCoy has 965,437 songs in his collection and a track or sound effect cued up for nearly every occasion. Sometimes, that gets him in trouble.
"I am literally taunting the players," McCoy said. "I'm going so hard at the players, making them laugh, joking at them."
Late in the game, a USC player drew a foul. McCoy thought he should make her laugh, so he played a line from the Geico hump-day camel commercial, which was going viral at the time.
"Uh oh, guess what day it is!" McCoy played.
The shooter giggled.
"Oh, I got her," McCoy thought.
She missed both shots, and Northridge won by a point.
After the game, Craig Kelley, a USC associate athletic director, marched in McCoy's direction. McCoy tried to shrink away, "because I knew I was on the boundary lines," McCoy said.
But Kelley wasn't angry. He wanted to know if McCoy would work for USC too.
In more than two seasons with the Trojans, McCoy has become the envy — and scourge — of the Pac-12 Conference. Kelley says he receives three to five calls per month from schools around the country, asking how to replicate USC's in-game experience. Already, Washington has emulated USC's model.
Last season, as USC languished, McCoy was a reason to show up.
This season, he is a secret weapon. USC has a record of 15-1 at home; the Trojans' loss was the only game McCoy missed.
College basketball is dominated by pep bands and staid public-address announcers. USC pushes the limit on appropriate behavior.
McCoy tries to eliminate all dead air. His raspy voice and dolphin-like laugh are as constant as the pounding of the ball and squeaking of sneakers. His sound effects are near instantaneous. While opposing teams warm up, he'll play slow, soporific music, like the theme from "MASH" or "Frere Jacques."
USC guard Elijah Stewart said he thinks McCoy "is one of the funniest DJs anywhere."
The Pac-12 prohibits artificial noise making during game play. A few times, McCoy said, he has forgotten the rule and exhorted the crowd while the ball was live.
"We kind of toe the line there, but we have that approval from [Athletic Director] Pat Haden to really come as close without breaking the rules," said Kelley, who serves as the in-game executive producer.
Kelley said the production is a team effort. Sometimes, 20 to 30 game-day staffers chime in on his headset. But McCoy is given freedom to improvise.
Once, when it looked as though USC and Arizona State were about to scuffle, McCoy played a boxing bell. "Ding, ding, ding!"
On the court, Stewart laughed.
Borderline, Kelley said.
Another time, McCoy announced that he was going to play the song "All You Can Eat," every time UCLA's powerful forward, Tony Parker, shot free throws.
That went too far, Kelley said.
The Pac-12 has slapped USC's wrist a few times during the season, Kelley said, mostly in disputes over when music can be played. Pac-12 spokesman Dave Hirsch said the conference monitors each game and contacts a school when it doesn't comply.
During a women's volleyball game against Arizona this season, a USC player spiked the ball into the face of an opponent. Once he could see the player was OK, McCoy decided to have some fun.
He played the lyrics, "I can't feel my face when I'm with you."
Arizona's coach was furious.
The next day, tempers had eased. An Arizona assistant coach emailed McCoy.
"We thought the atmosphere you created in the Galen Center yesterday during our match with USC was outstanding," the coach wrote. Then he asked: Did McCoy know of anyone similar in Arizona?
McCoy's central duty is pleasing a crowd with wide-ranging tastes. Kelley believes nothing gets the fans going like hip-hop. But McCoy measures the age of an audience and tailors his selections accordingly.
Not everyone approves. A "high-level university employee" Kelley declined to identify let it be known that he didn't care for the DJ.
"He really liked John Denver," Kelley said of the employee. "So we threw some John Denver in there for him."
McCoy has been a DJ most of his life. He said his father was "a pretty known gangsta in Long Beach," who threw regular parties on Friday nights. McCoy was his 7-year-old DJ. His grandmother called him "Jamally Mal-Ski," and the moniker stuck.
McCoy keeps a busy schedule. He produces, appears on a regular radio show and DJs at clubs. Last year, he says, he worked 43 weddings and 179 events.
The WNBA's Sparks and five USC teams are among his clients.
He is a lifelong Trojans fan, and he said his wife's first cousin is Marcus Allen, so he can get emotionally wrapped up in the season. USC's early ascendance has hit turbulence recently, with the Trojans losing five of six. USC's home games this week will help determine the team's NCAA tournament fate.
"We've had streaks of greatness, and then we've had streaks of what the heck are we doing?" McCoy said.
McCoy hopes he can help, in his way. Naturally, he has a song picked out, and he's not over-thinking this one.
He thinks Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" will work just fine.
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