Coach Carter (2005)


Coach Carter is a 2005 film from Paramount Pictures, directed by Thomas Carter. It is based on a true story, in which Richmond High School (Richmond, California, USA) head basketball coach Ken Carter made headlines in 1999 for benching his undefeated team due to poor academic results. The screenplay was co-written by Mark Schwahn, who created the TV series One Tree Hill. The movie also recycles a handful of plot-lines from another TV series, The White Shadow, which director Thomas Carter co-starred in.


Kenneth Carter (Samuel L. Jackson) is offered a part-time, low-paying ($1,500 for the whole basketball season) job coaching the Richmond Oilers basketball team at his old high school, for which he had previously played and set as of yet unbroken records. Although he discovers the players to be unruly and disrespectful, he accepts and starts to gain their respect. Coach Carter sets strict new rules for the team in the form of contracts — they must maintain a 2.3 grade point average (not just the 2.0 GPA set by the CHSAA), they must attend classes and sit in the front row, and they must wear jackets and ties on game days. One of the players, Timo Cruz (Rick Gonzalez), walks out of practice on the first day after an altercation with Carter. Cruz is later seen hanging with his older, drug-dealing cousin, Renny. Two other team members walk out on the team, who were coincidently last season's scoring leaders. However, Carter's son Damien, a good student who attended and played basketball at the private school St. Francis, quits the private school (against his father's wishes) and transfers to Richmond High School to play basketball on his father's team. Carter only agreed after Damien signed a contract stating that he will maintain a GPA of 3.7. The movie shows the personal side of some players like Kenyon (Rob Brown), whose pregnant girlfriend, Kyra (Ashanti) has given up on her plans for college in favor of having the baby, even though she sees first-hand how that has gone for her cousin. Kenyon becomes confused, unable to decide whether he should continue with his academic life and play basketball in college or take care of the baby. Meanwhile, Cruz goes back and forth between dealing drugs and playing on the team. He walks in on practice one day, asking to return. Carter challenges him with the seemingly impossible task of 1000 suicides and 2500 pushups to be completed in less than a week. Cruz tortures himself to do it, and with the help of his teammates also doing suicides and pushups, he is able to complete them and Carter allows him back on the team. Together, Carter and the team, after a heavy course of working out win their first match only to be followed by multiple consecutive wins while in the previous season the team had lost 22 games and only had four wins. Carter is also found on several occasions through out the movie asking Cruz what is his deepest fear. The team also won a holiday basketball tournament. They celebrate when one of the fans, who admires Worm, invites the whole team to her house for a party while her parents are away. They sneak out of their hotel and go over to her house. Carter, who is unaware of this, tries to find Damien, only to discover that the whole team is gone, a taxi driver tells them where they are. He comes upon the girl's house just as her parents are coming back home, he orders his team out and finds Worm sleeping with the parents' daughter. On their way back, he berates the team and tells them that next practice will be hard on all of them, Timo reminds him that he has winners, it was what he wanted. After receiving the poor grade reports of the team, Carter cracks down on them and locks them out of the gym in the midst of the still undefeated season. He cancels basketball practice, forfeits games including the most important game of the season, and makes the team spend practice time in the library, being tutored by some of their teachers. Although a few of the players are fulfilling the contract (including Kenyon who protests that he has a 3.3 GPA), Carter insists that all the players must accept the consequences for their collective actions as a team. All of this leads to Cruz quitting the team a second time, eventually going back to work for Renny. Carter continues to get threats from other people when someone throws a rock through his window, and someone spits on his car. Late one night, Renny is shot and killed on the sidewalk while Cruz is walking back to him after greeting his friends from the team. Cruz ends up at Carter's house that night, apologizing for his behavior and begging him to allow him back on the team. So Carter lets Cruz back on the team, saving him from a future like his cousin's. Eventually, the school board and the parents fight back against Carters actions, after those actions received media attention. The board eventually votes 4–2 to end the lockout, the dissenting votes being the school's principal and the chairwoman of the board. Carter is on the verge of quitting, but when he arrives at the gym to pack up his things, he finds the players sitting at school desks in the gym, with their teachers tutoring them. The players point out that even though the gym is reopened, the school board can't force them to play. Cruz is finally able to answer Carter's question, "What is your deepest fear?", by quoting Marianne Williamson: "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. It is not just in some of us, it is in everyone, and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." So his own fear is to not fulfill his true potential. Carter is heartened and decides to stay, thanking the players. The team makes it into the state high-school championship playoffs. The big climactic game takes place at the state tournament's first round against the #1 ranked team in the state, St. Francis (starring a superstar NBA prospect). Despite the Oilers' strong effort, Carter´s team does not win. Over the closing song, it is told that six of the players went on to college (this was a school at which only about 50% of students graduated, and only 6% of those who graduate usually went to college). Junior Battle went to San Jose State University on a full scholarship. Jason Lyle went to San Diego State University and received a degree in Business Administration. Timo Cruz attended Humboldt State University where he became a starting guard. Worm (whose real name is Jaron Willis) received a scholarship to San Francisco State University where he played point guard for four years. Kenyon Stone attended Sacramento State University and received a degree in Communications. Damien Carter went on to break the Richmond High School scoring and assist records previously held by his father. Upon graduation, he attends the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.