Glory Road (Buena Vista Pictures, PG-13)

Once the team gelled and the players convinced Haskins to let them add a little flair into their game, they became unstoppable.

I have to confess something: I am a huge fan of Jerry Bruckheimer. I have loved so many of his films, including Gone in 60 Seconds, Remember the Titans, and the guilty pleasure Coyote Ugly. So when I found out Bruckheimer was one of the producers of Glory Road, I expected greatness—and, to a certain extent, that is what I got.

The story follows the true tale of the 1966 Texas Western (now known as University of Texas – El Paso) basketball program. The small college recruits a top girls’ basketball coach, Don Haskins (Josh Lucas), in hopes of taking its team to the next level. Haskins knows talent when he sees it, but when he meets the current team, he know he is in trouble. Faced with no recruiting budget, the odds start to mount as Haskins combs the country looking for players who not only have talent, but also unbridled passion for the game.

The first half of the movie covers Haskins building his ragtag team. There is just one hitch: Most of his players are African American. In today’s society this is a non-issue, but in 1966, it was considered scandalous to play African-American players in college games. According to one of Haskins’ assistant coaches, Ross Moore (Red West), “You play one at home, two on the road, three if you’re behind.” While this movie is an inspirational story, it is also a harsh look at race relations in the turbulent ’60s.

The second half followed the history-making team as they trounced any competitor who appeared on their courts. Once the team gelled and the players convinced Haskins to let them add a little flair into their game, they became unstoppable as they took down even the mightiest of teams. As their success grew, so did the stakes; death threats and racist slurs harried them at every turn. It was astonishing (if not downright embarrassing) to see how Americans treated 12 boys who just wanted to play basketball. And this was only 40 years ago.

Lucas—who is something of a poor man’s Matthew McConaughey—turned in a stunning performance as the legendary Haskins. His ability to keep the same level of intensity throughout the entire film was impressive. Combined with strong performances by Damaine Radcliff as Willie Cager and Derek Luke as Bobby Joe Hill, the entire cast worked well together in telling the story of these brave souls.

Overall, though, the filmmakers should have spent more time exploring the bonds between the characters and less time on the flashy performances on the court. The end result turned out to be a basketball program that, against all odds, changed the face of collegiate basketball forever. This was not only a boon for basketball but for all organized American sports in general. Glory Road is an inspirational yet disconcerting story that may not be easy for some to accommodate; however, in this case, the end justifies the means.

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