In 1951, Norman Dale arrives in the rural southeast Indiana town of Hickory to become a high school teacher and head basketball coach. He was hired by Cletus Summers, the principal and a longtime friend of Dale’s. Dale, just out of the Navy, had been a champion collegiate coach until he struck one of his players. The coaching position in Hickory is a last chance for him.
Like much of the state, Hickory is passionate about basketball. The townspeople are aware that the best player in town, Jimmy Chitwood, does not intend to play on this season’s team due to his attachment to the previous coach and the concern of hometown faculty member Myra Fleener, who has been looking after Jimmy since his mother’s illness and warns Dale not to try to persuade Jimmy to change his mind.
The school enrollment is so small that Dale has only seven players on his squad. At his first practice, Dale quickly dismisses one, Buddy Walker, for not paying attention and talking while the coach is talking. Another, Whit Butcher, walks out in support of his friend, leaving Dale with only 5 players, the minimum needed to play. He then begins drilling the remaining five players (Rade Butcher, Merle Webb, Everett Flatch, Strap Purl, and equipment manager Ollie McLellan) with fundamentals and conditioning but no scrimmages or shooting, much to the players’ dislike.
Townsmen who have heard of the coach’s non-traditional approach to working with the team intrude on a practice and demand to know what Dale is doing. However, Whit’s father arrives with his son in tow and makes his son apologize to Dale for walking out and ask for another chance. Mr. Butcher then shows his support of Dale by ushering the townsmen out of the gym.
Hoosiers is a 1986 sports film written by Angelo Pizzo and directed by David Anspaugh. It tells the story of a small-town Indiana high school basketball team that wins the state championship. It is loosely based on the Milan High School team that won the 1954 state championship.
Gene Hackman stars as Norman Dale, a new coach with a spotty past. The film co-stars Barbara Hershey and Dennis Hopper, whose role as the basketball-loving town drunk, earned him an Oscar nomination. Jerry Goldsmith was also nominated for an Academy Award for his score. In 2001, Hoosiers was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
Directed by: David Anspaugh
Starring: Gene Hackman, Barbara Hershey, Dennis Hopper, Sheb Wooley, Fern Persons, Chelcie Ross, Robert Swan, Michael O’Guinne
Screenplay by: Angelo Pizzo
Production Design by: David Nichols
Cinematography by: Fred Murphy
Film Editing by: Carroll Timothy O’Meara
Costume Design by: Jane Anderson
Set Decoration by: Janis Lubin, Brendan Smith
Art Direction by: David Lubin
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Distributed by: Orion Pictures
Release Date: November 14, 1986