Image Courtesy of Amazon.com
Josh Lucas……….Coach Don Haskins
Jon Voight……….Adolph Rupp
When it comes to basketball movies there is Hoosiers and everything else. Hoosiers is such a brilliant film that its shadow overpowers every attempt at making a basketball film since its release. From Blue Chips to Coach Carter, and all points between, basketball films haven’t been that good much less been good enough to be compared to the fictionalized account of Milan H.S. But if there was one story translated to film that could get there, it might be the story of Texas Western and Don Haskins in Glory Road
Haskins and Texas Western (now the University of Texas-El Paso) would stun Adolph Rupp and the University of Kentucky in 1966 to win the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship. What made the game special was that Rupp, who had refused to let a black player on to his all-white teams, was beaten by Haskins and a lineup of five starters who were all African-American. It was a game that changed how NCAA basketball would be played and opened the door for Southern schools to recruit black players and break down the doors of segregation.
Haskins is portrayed by Josh Lucas in Glory Road, which focuses on that fabled year in which Texas Western beat the University of Kentucky. Originally a women’s basketball coach willing to do anything to coach Division I men’s basketball, Haskins moves his family into a men’s dorm in Texas and struggles to recruit top talent to a program that has had some less than stellar seasons. Haskins has a brilliant idea to solve his inability to bring new talent in: recruit the players the big schools won’t recruit. Loading up his roster with African-American standouts from across the country, Haskins is charged with two difficult tasks. He has to incorporate these new players in a place and time that wasn’t as accepting of minorities as well as bring his intense, defense-oriented style of basketball to a group of players not used to it. Haskins has to break these players down and build them up into a team that would win an NCAA title in dramatic fashion against the Kentucky Wildcats and their Hall of Fame Coach Rupp (Jon Voight).
As a film, Glory Road is a revelation in the field of basketball films if only for the sheer amount of bad to awful films in it. Outside of Hoosiers the only good basketball film has been Coach Carter, which really wasn’t spectacular is it was slightly above mediocre. Given the sheer amount of bad films in the genre (ranging from Rebound, the aforementioned Blue Chips and The Air Up There amongst others) the fact that this film isn’t completely awful immediately elevates it to rarified air.
It is your typical clichÃƒÂ©d underdog tale, as the team has their pratfalls and obstacles to overcome, but it’s well-done. First time director James Gartner is able to keep a good pace to the story as well as follow the formula on a rigorous level to be able to make it an entertaining story. With the power of Jerry Bruckheimer behind him, Gartner certainly has enough of a production team behind him to compensate for his relative inexperience behind the camera. This is a sharply edited and moderately well-written film to start, so Gartner has a lot going for him to begin with. He is able to take this and not try and reinvent the wheel. It doesn’t hurt that his main star (Lucas) is actually quite good in the role; in a part originally designed for Ben Affleck, Lucas fills in quite admirably in the role. He is honest and earnest as Haskins has been described; he’s wholly believable in the role of a man who just wants to coach basketball at the highest level in the land.
The one thing about Glory Road that keeps it from being a Hoosiers type of film is that the road from zeroes to heroes isn’t developed enough. The characters are well-written for an underdog film but just aren’t developed completely enough to make them fully-rendered characters. The film’s pacing is brisk and almost too fast at points; with as many cast members as there are on the team some more character development would help further the cause. The team is eminently likeable and easy to cheer for, but this is a film that could’ve gone further than the slightly more than superficial treatment they’re given.
Score : 7.5 / 10
Presented in a widescreen format with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the transfer is a great one. The colors are clear and vivid.
Presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 format, the film has a great audio transfer to it as well.
Deleted scenes comprising about eight minutes of lost screen time are included. It’s interesting the bits they left out, as there is a great scene intended for after the championship between Lucas, Voight and an elevator assistant as well as a humorous gag involving hunting and frogs. There’s a great scene with Rupp accepting an award and talking frankly about race and recruiting where he talks about how it’s a matter of winning, not integration, and that was the bottom line between both him and Haskins; Voight still has the ability to carry a scene when he has to and it’s almost disappointing that this was cut from a film whose focus is on equality and race as well as it’s a great scene that focuses a lot on what Haskins and Voight thought and acted when it came to coaching.
Legacy of the Bear is a featurette focusing on Haskins Texas-Western/UTEP coaching career. Featuring players he coached like Nevil Shed and former NBA superstar Tim Hardaway amongst others, former assistant Tim Floyd, and Haskins himself, it’s an interesting retrospective on the man’s coaching career. After having finished up playing basketball at Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State), Haskins went from coaching high school basketball to Division I basketball, it’s interesting to hear all these former players talk about how tough he was but it’s easy to tell how much love and respect they have for him at the same time.
In Their Own Words: Remembering 1966 is a featurette featuring the surviving members of the team talking about the season, each other and the conditions of the time period. It’s a fascinating look at a time period long since past as Nevil Shed, David Lattin and the rest talk about what it was like to play in a much more racially charged environment than it is now. Pat Riley compares it to a sort of “Emancipation Proclamation” for college sports, as within three years several conferences went from not having any African-American players to having all star teams filled with them; it was a watershed moment for sports, breaking down another barrier in a long line of them. It’s a no-holds barred look at the situation as there’s a lot of racially charged material coming from both sides of the aisle against the players and coaching staff, as well as some good inside stories from everyone involved.
Surviving Practice is a short feature featuring Tim Hardaway as he talks about what it was like to practice under Haskins. He credits it as helping him to prepare for the NBA as he talks about how Haskins was a tough coach to play for as he practiced at an intense level. The production staff brought him in to help run the cast through some drills and it’s fascinating to see and hear him coach gives a great comparison to the toughness Lucas used as a coach for the film.
Commentary by James Gartner & Jerry Bruckheimer
Commentary by screenwriters Christopher Cleveland & Bettina Gilois
Alicia Keys Music Video – “Sweet Music”
Score : 7.5 / 10