Glory Road

Sports films have long been a popular genre in Hollywood as classics such as Pride of the Yankees, The Natural, and Raging Bull are all examples of some of the finest examples of sports films which encapsulate the very essence of the sport they portray.

In the new film Glory Road Josh Lucas stars as Don Haskins, a girls Basketball coach who is given the chance to coach a Division 1 team at Texas Western in 1966.

The small school cannot offer the coach much in the way of amenities as Don and his family are required to live in the student’s dorm. Since his dreams of playing pro ball came to a halt after a knee injury, Haskins looks at his job as a chance for him to make a name for himself.

The task will be daunting as Texas Western is a very small school that puts the majority of its athletic budget into the football program leaving next to no money for the gym, new equipment, and recruiting of players.

After a frustrating attempt to recruit players at a local invitational, Haskins sets his sites on a young African American player who while big on attitude, is also big on potential.

With scholarships to offer, Haskins and his staff travel the nation and shock the conservative school by offering scholarships to 8 African American players. In a day and age when teams had at most 1-2 African American players; many of whom did not see much playing time; this is a risky move for the coach.

Undaunted, the coach begins the process of integrating his new players with his current players all of whom are Caucasian, which leads to some tension over starting rights, abilities, and styles.

Haskins is a no nonsense coach who is very strict in regards to grades, effort in practice, and above all avoiding late nights and carousing while the season is underway. Despite this, many players decide to test the will of the coach which raises issues of commitment to the team and discipline, all of which are standard staples of sports films.

When the season starts, a funny thing happens. Not only is the coach playing his African American players in a heavy rotation, but little Texas Western is winning their games and beating some of the more noted teams in the country in the process.

As their notoriety increases so does the amount of hostility directed towards the team from racially incensed fans who do not like the make up of the team and especially hate their success.

Despite this, the team finds itself in the National Championship game against powerful Kentucky coached by the legendary Adolph Rupp (Jon Voight), where Haskins makes history by starting and playing only his African American players which is a first in NCAA finals history.

While the marketing and trailers for the film certainly do not hesitate from telling you most of the above and underscoring that the team ends up in the finals and that the film is based on a true story, it is not about the final results, it is about the journey the team took getting there.

Producer Jerry Bruckheimer is a master at knowing what the fans want and director James Gartner gives viewers a by the number film that delivers the goods. Yes, the film heavily uses all the sporting clichés from the ailing player, the us against the world mentality, the team of misfits, and so on all of which combines to offer little cinematic tension as it is very clear early on and from the ads where this film will end up.

Despite tipping their hand early and throughout, the filmmakers have decided not to rock the boat and have stuck with a tried and true formula that results with a winning albeit very predictable film.

Lucas does a solid job in the roll and makes the best of the material he has to work with. The game sequences are well managed and rousing which had members of my preview audience cheering.

While it offers little originality, Glory Road is a lot of fun, and despite mining every cliché in the book, is an entertaining time at the movies.

4 stars out of 5