Articles: "Glory Road" - Undefeated And Unrenowned, The Texas Western Miners Had Come To Shoot Hoops.




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Matt Gunn

"Glory Road" is the story of the 1966 Texas Western College (known today as the University of Texas at El Paso) national championship basketball team that forever changed the complexion of sports through integration and equality among its players.

The Miners were the first team to feature an all-Black starting lineup. "Glory Road" is also the story of Don Haskins (Josh Lucas), a determined coach in pursuit of a national title, who doesn’t see color in the creation of his team.

"He wasn’t trying to make a statement when he did this, he was just trying to win a basketball game," producer Jerry Bruckheimer said. "When he recruited those players, he just wanted seven good players. He didn’t go out and say ‘I’m going to change society, I’m going to change integration,’ not at all. That’s how the best things happen. They come out of necessity and need."

Haskins provided his players the opportunity to succeed. Rather than simply recruiting the best high school players, Haskins searched inner-city playgrounds, and went into neighborhoods most Division I coaches wouldn’t approach.

The first African-American player to join Haskins was Bobby Joe Hill (Derek Luke), who became the team’s best player and its heart and soul. Though he didn’t want to, Hill took Haskins’ challenge and led the Miners to victory.

No stranger to adversity, Luke approached his role with the determination of a champion.

"My story’s kind of a ‘Glory Road’ itself," Luke said. "I worked at a gift shop. I moved from New Jersey, and I moved with a dream. Like any other dream, to me there are obstacles – not just racists like in the movie, but what I call dream stoppers."

Like his Texas Western counterpart, Luke stayed determined through adversity, and never second-guessed his purpose.

"I never had a plan-b," Luke said. "I research characters the way I live my life. I never negotiated my purpose with anybody."

Researching Bobby Joe Hill meant learning the game of basketball. Though Luke never played, he learned fast. He endured a two-week boot camp, along with extra training, and became a great basketball player in the process.

"Bobby Joe was the best player on that team. He might have been one of the greatest NBA point guards ever had he played basketball," Bruckheimer said. "He could have gone to any university today if he wanted to, but back then, nobody wanted him."

Hill – along with a Texas Western team filled with overlooked players – went all the way to the NCAA championship. Although they came 10 years after Rosa Parks, and 20 years after Jackie Robinson, the Texas Western Miners were constantly faced by racism and a basketball society that didn’t want them.

Their opponent in the championship game was Adolph Rupp and his legendary Kentucky Wildcats. In an arena filled with Confederate flags and unwelcoming fans, the Miners were forced to play their best game.

"In that last game, it was accurate to the film," Bruckheimer said. "So if you took three dribbles before you took the shot, that’s how we shot it. Everything is right down. It’s something that is historically accurate."

The accuracy is striking, and the outcome makes for the most inspiring sports story since "Miracle." Contrasting the hockey film, however, "Glory Road" is about an internal conflict in the United States. Like the 1980 U.S. hockey team, Texas Western succeeded in the end, and forever changed the face of American sports.

"The game meant more than a game," Luke said. "It was about being excellent. Coach Haskins demanded excellence out of them. They turned around and the racism was in the front, but as they were pursuing excellence, they passed it in the race."


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