Samuel L. Jackson as Coach Ken Carter
Debbi Morgan as Tonya Carter
Robert Ri’chard as Damien Carter
Rob Brown as Kenyon Stone
Rick Gonzalez as Timo Cruz
Antwon Tanner as Worm
Nana Gbewonyo as Junior Battle
Roger Lim as Benson Chiu
Channing Tatum as Jason Lyle
Texas Battle as Maddox
Ashanti as Kyra
Denise Dowse as Principal Garrison
Ken Carter (Samuel L. Jackson) has been through the ringer of high school and college athletics with his ethics and priorities intact. When he’s given the chance to coach for his old high school he takes it – not as an opportunity to teach kids how to win at basketball, but as a chance to teach them how to be men and help give them a shot at a real future.
Coach Carter is based on actual events in Richmond, CA when the real Ken Carter locked out his undefeated varsity basketball team until they met his academic standards. In a culture that places talented athletes on impossibly high pedestals that often allow them to forget the common bonds of society, Carter has realized that athletics are but a slice of life, and should be kept in the proper perspective.
That being said, it’s still a sports movie, and like most sports movies it’s set up to be inspiring, instead of naturally being inspiring. It tries hard to be inspiring, sometimes too hard. The early team bonding moments in particular are unintentionally funny.
Luckily for the film, Jackson exudes such dignity and intelligence that he can, and does, sell even the corniest and most often-used sports movie moment, making it seem fresh and real. The film relies on his performance, and he carries it well. The rest of the cast isn’t so lucky. Most of the characters exist in a gray area somewhere in-between stock and real people. They do what they’re supposed to in order to deliver the movie’s message, but that’s all.
With another in a long line of strong performances by Jackson, and some excellent basketball choreography, Coach Carter is fun, hopeful, occasionally silly and, what can I say, inspiring.