His love of announcing, teaching speaks volumes
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the story behind that voice you hear at Grand Canyon University men’s basketball games.
Wait. That doesn’t do it justice. That sounds like the College of Education professor who says, “There are a lot of times that I just like being quiet.”
GOOOOOOOOOOOOD EVENING, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, AND WELCOME …
Much better. That sounds more like the public-address announcer who reminds himself when he gets a bit too excited, “Oh yeah, they did give you a microphone.”
Paul Danuser has a God-given ability to somehow rise above the din of GCU Arena and still sound innocently enthusiastic. He has become the most recognizable bass in the place, a key contributor to the cacophony that has made the GCU basketball experience known (and heard) across the land.
He even has GCU employees and their families mimicking his unique style. Helen Bleach, senior director of University relations and campus events, tells of how her husband, Michael, uses Danuser’s signature line when it’s time to walk their labradoodle, Hazel:
First, semi-softly: “Lopes fans, are you ready?”
Then, after a pause: “LOPES FANS! ARE … YOU … READY?!!!!”
Right on cue, Hazel goes crazy, just as the Havocs do when it’s gametime.
But Danuser (pronounced, appropriately, Dah-NOOZ-er) is not an attention seeker. Far from it. “My main role at GCU is not as the P.A.,” he says. “I’m a teacher. This is just something else that I get to do, and I love doing it.”
There’s a lot more to the story than that, though, so let’s get started.
Are you ready?
Basketball is best
First, one thing needs to be heard loud and clear: Public-address announcers at sports events often are about as appealing as a scratchy sound system. A phony-baloney, forced voice is an annoying intrusion to the pastoral setting of baseball. They’re not much more than a down-and-distance informant in football and a goal-and-penalty reporter in hockey.
But basketball! That’s where a good one can make a difference. That’s where there’s a lot to say with the constant flow of field goals and fouls — it’s as much a part of an arena as the smell of the popcorn machine. The basketball P.A. announcer often is a household name, in both the big city and a tiny school like the one where Danuser got his first shot at it in front of about 50 people.
It just so happened that there were two players whose names allowed Danuser to give them a little extra oomph, and a style was born. “It was just perfect, and these kids were in my classes. Their parents would come, and they just loved it,” he says.
His first pay for doing the job — a hot dog and a Gatorade — came at Mountain Pointe High School in Phoenix. Then he arrived at GCU five years ago and started out doing volleyball matches.
Before long, two of the players — Jared Goldberg on the men’s team and Shannon Duggan on the women’s — heard their friends calling out “Gooooooldberg” and “Duuuuuuuggan” as they walked across campus. Danuser soon found himself doing men’s basketball, too, with one proviso: Make it exciting.
That’s never a problem for him.
“He gets people hyped up,” says Karsten Kem, vice president of the Havocs. “And he does a good job of ad-libbing.”
Steve Hunsaker, the Havocs’ president, says it’s equally important that “it feels genuine. He’s the hidden gem of GCU. We were just talking about that in a meeting.” And cheerleader Abbie Henderson chimes in with this: “His voice is just so great to listen to, I think everyone would agree. He gets into it as much as we do.”
Teaching comes first
But Henderson has another perspective that many students don’t see. The Elementary Education major has Danuser as an instructor. There, his calling card is humor, not HUUUUMOR.
“When people come in groaning about Monday, I tell them, ‘It’s one of the five best days of the school week.’”
“He’s very funny and engaging,” she says. “The class is almost two hours, but it doesn’t seem that long. It gets close to the end and we’re not ready for it to be over.”
Neither is he. He likes to stand in the hallway before class and greet everyone who walks by. Teaching has been as heavenly as hoops for all of the 34 years he has done it.
“I love it,” he says. “I say all the time I’ve been blessed a million times over. I’ve never been burned out. I’ve never said, ‘I’ve got to get out of teaching.’ When people come in groaning about Monday, I tell them, ‘It’s one of the five best days of the school week.’”
But he is a man of many loves.
He loves his wife, Kellea, of course, and appreciates her support during the many nights he’s on campus doing the P.A.
He loves baseball so much, he was determined to reach the major leagues as a catcher before reality set in. But he did play on the team for all four of his years at Dr. Martin Luther College in New Ulm, Minn., not far from where he grew up.
He still loves the Minnesota Twins (now that’s dedication, if you have followed their fortunes in recent years) and named his son Kirby, after the late Kirby Puckett, the Twins’ Hall of Fame center fielder.
He loves sports so much, he did a $5-an-hour overnight radio show years ago with the hope of eventually working his way up to ESPN, which was in its infancy.
And he mischievously loves it when his gentlemanly manner belies his P.A. persona.
“I think for the most part I am pretty much soft-spoken,” he says. “I don’t stand in front of the class and say, ‘Hey, everybody, I do the P.A. for basketball.’ They’ll be at a game and then they’ll come into class and say, ‘I didn’t know you did that. It doesn’t sound like you or seem like you.’ There will be kids who say, ‘Hey, can you do The Voice?’”
A scene to be heard
Ah, yes. The Voice. A good basketball P.A. has to have timing and some memorable lines, but it all starts with powerful pipes.
When GCU nearly shocked Louisville in December and then knocked off San Diego State four days later, the Arena felt as if it was going to come off its moorings as Danuser raised his fervor to match the fever. Louisville coach Rick Pitino called it the toughest crowd he’s ever faced, but he didn’t mention the P.A. announcer. Maybe he didn’t need to.
And just think: That was when two of the Lopes’ Danuser-friendly names — Boubacar Toure and Kenzo Nudo — weren’t playing because of injuries. At least Nudo (NUUUUUUDO) is back, and just in time for Danuser to get properly pumped for three home games in the space of eight days, concluding with the big one against first-place New Mexico State on Saturday, Feb. 11.
“We really appreciate him. He’s an awesome dude,” says guard Joshua Braun, who likes to talk ball with Danuser when he sees him on campus and enjoys his volleyball work, too.
But right from the start of Tuesday night’s game against Bethesda, it was obvious something wasn’t right. The man who implores fans to “make some NOISE” wasn’t drawing out the words the way he normally does, and his voice was cracking a bit during pregame introductions.
The reason was every P.A. announcer’s nightmare: He caught a cold last week, and two pulsating, five-set men’s volleyball matches over the weekend plus teaching three classes on Tuesday left his voice in shambles. One of the things he prays for at the start of every game is for his voice to hold up, but this time the prayers were more like pleas.
And you know what? His prayers were answered. By game’s end, he sounded better. He wasn’t in full throat, but the hoarse had been tamed. Danuser still was able to contribute to the show that is a GCU basketball game.
“I just keep thinking, ‘OK, what else are they going to come up with?’” he says. “Just everything — the dancers and the cheerleaders are so talented and creative, and then the band comes out and does a marching show.
“I keep thinking that I still can’t believe they let me do this … and what am I going to do to keep raising the bar?”
Sounds like a winner.
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].