Reviewed by Madelyn Ritrosky-Winslow &
Kalynn Huffman Brower
"GLORY ROAD" is the true story of Coach Don Haskins and the Texas Western College basketball team, the Miners. An underdog team, the small El Paso college came out of nowhere to win the Division I championship in 1966.
Haskins chose an all-black line-up at a time when the unwritten, but understood racial codes meant that only one or two token blacks could be on a starting line-up. Some have called the Kentucky vs. Texas Western game the most significant in NCAA championship history.
Haskin’s team and their victory helped change the way black athletes were recruited to colleges, especially in southern states. Haskins and his players helped break down color-barriers.
The film clearly situates the story in the 1960s. It opens with black and white images of social and racial conflict. On the basketball courts, the shorts were short and the skirts were long. Beehives, horn rims, thin ties, and rhythm and blues create the atmosphere of the times, when challenging the status quo was an integral part of American culture.
The story begins with a sequence of recruiting. First the college president hires Haskins, whose only prior coaching experience was with girls’ high school basketball. Then the film takes off with his dedication to scouring the country recruiting players. He was looking for the best players he could attract, given Texas Western was a small, unknown basketball school. Because black athletes were often overlooked by major schools, and because Coach Haskins was colorblind, he recruited many black players, far more than was typical.
He was a tough coach, demanding high levels of discipline. But the players respected him. They had to endure threats of violence and racial slurs, at home and on the road, which actually brought the team closer together. The white players came to empathize and the black players came to trust their teammates.
"GLORY ROAD" stars Josh Lucas, Derek Luke, and Jon Voight. James Gartner makes his feature film directing debut. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer brings another successful story to the big screen. It’s an engaging, fast-paced film with a social conscience and a big heart.
"Glory Road" at NCAA Convention, co-sponsored by Heartland Film Festival.