Josh Lucas as Coach Don Haskins
Derek Luke as Bobby Joe Hill
Mehcad Brooks as Harry Flournoy
Damaine Radcliff as Willie Scoops Cager
Sam Jones III as Willie Worsley
Alphonso McAuley as Orsten Artis
Schin A. S. Kerr as David Lattin
Al Shearer as Nevil Shed
Emily Deschanel as Mary Haskins
Austin Nichols as Jerry Armstrong
Red West as Ross Moore
Kip Weeks as Togo Railey
Mitch Eakins as Dick Myers
Alejandro Hernandez as David Palacio
James Olivard as Flip Baudoin
Jon Voight as Coach Adolph Rupp
In 1962 Don Haskins (Josh Lucas) – a player whose dreams of basketball glory were ruined with his knee in college – did what all young men with ruined dreams do, he went West to El Paso, to take the Head Coach position at Texas Western University, a school not known for its basketball program.
Crafting a disciplined team strategy and recruiting outside of the at-the-time normal circles for college basketball, Haskins created a juggernaut of a basketball team and in the process shattered race barriers in the sport when he started an all-black team in the 1966 NCAA Finals against Adolph Rupp’s (John Voight) perennial powerhouse University of Kentucky in what has been called the most important game in the history of college basketball.
Like most sports films, “Glory Road” works best when it is actually showcasing its sport; in this case basketball which, with its frantic, adrenaline fueled pace and graceful beauty lends itself particularly well to film. Though there have been better recent basketball films for showing off the sport on screen, “Glory Road” is serviceable enough.
Off the court, however, it’s alternately flat and didactic. Director Gartner goes to great pains to drill the films message in, early and often. Bobby Joe Hill’s (Derek Luke) introduction is particularly preachy, and coming so early in the film, it feels a bit like an anvil. It leads to many of the dramatic moments feeling extremely stagy, instead of just being allowed to happen.
Lucas creates the film version of Don Haskins with fire and ability, and in the small amount of screen time he has, Voight does an incredible simulation of famed Kentucky coach Rupp, bringing him very much to life. Luke does his normal serviceable work, but like the rest of the team he gets saddled with some of the most strident scenes and dialogue.
“Glory Road” is important enough as a story, but it’s only an average movie.
“Glory Road” is rated PG for racial issues including violence and epithets, and momentary language.