Rated: PG-13 for excessive obsentities. Reviewed by: Chris Release date: February 18, 1994 Released by: Paramount Pictures Corporation
Nick Nolte stars as Pete Bell, award-winning basketball coach whose team has had three losing seasons. The kids play their hearts out, but just aren't talented enough to beat the best, so Bell takes to the road to find new recruits.
He's interested in three awesome teens, a poor Chicago kid, played by Orlando Magic star Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway, a farm boy played by Matt Nover, and a boy from New Orleans, played by Orlando Magic superstar Shaquille O'Neal.
Bell, who believes in a clean athletic program, at first refuses to offer the kids luxury cars, new homes and satchels full of cash as an incentive for them to choose his college (based in California) over the other big universities who are also vying from them. But, the need to taste winning again overtakes his principles, and he gives into an alumni group headed by creepy J.T. Walsh, to pay the kids whatever it takes.
Basketball greats show up everywhere in this film. Celtic legend Bob Cousy gives a very good performance as Bell's athletic director. Las Vegas' Running Rebels' Coach Jerry Tarkanian and retired Celtic star Larry Bird have fun with humorous cameos, and O'Neal could have a second career going -- he's a natural and dynamic presence.
Nolte gives an inspired performance as the coach. He kicks over water coolers, punches lockers and screams at his players in a frenzied outrage after a losing game, yet he loves his team. He makes sure they're passing their courses, arranges for their tutors and even asks about girlfriends and parents.
Seconds to go on the arena clock as a lanky teen dribbles the ball down the court and passes it to his teammate, who slams the winning basket in just as the buzzer sounds -- you don't have to be a basketball fan to be excited by this film. Director William Friedkin puts his love for the game on the screen, and boy, is it infectious!