"Coach Carter" Movie Summary

by Noel Shankel

Released in January 2005, "Coach Carter" is another in a long string of inspirational sports movies that highlight both the players and the coach as they strive for success on and off the court. "Coach Carter" stars Samuel L. Jackson as real-life high-school basketball phenom Ken Carter, who agrees to coach his former team. The film tells not only his story, but the personal stories of some of the players he coached.

The Plot

Ken Carter agrees to coach the Richmond Oilers, a talented but undisciplined group of high-school basketball players. Carter states that each player must maintain at least a 2.3 grade point average and follow a strict dress code in order to play. When the players -- who signed a contract agreeing to the terms -- begin to slack off, Carter benches them, threatening to cancel the rest of the season. The players' parents and the school board are outraged, and the lockout is overturned. However, the players agree to lift their grades before playing again. The Richmond Oilers play -- and lose -- a championship game against St. Francis, but they learn to be better individuals despite the loss.

The Players

Although "Coach Carter" focuses mainly on Samuel L. Jackson's character, time is taken to highlight some of the personal struggles of the players. For example, one player, Timo Cruz (Rick Gonzalez), leaves the team to deal drugs with his cousin, Renny. Renny is eventually shot and killed, showing the dangers of drug dealing. Cruz eventually returns to the team. Another player, Kenyon Stone (Rob Brown), must deal with his pregnant girlfriend and the thought of being a father. His girlfriend ends up having an abortion. Carter's son -- Damien Carter (Robert Ri'chard) -- also joins the team. Before the credits roll, we are told that Damien shattered the assist and scoring records once held by his father at Richmond High.

Reception

"Coach Carter" had an overall budget of $30 million, and it nearly made that back over its opening weekend by raking in $29,168,180. The entire United States gross for the film topped out at $67,253,092. The film received mostly positive reviews, earning a 7.1 out of 10 on IMDb and a 57 out of 100 score on Metascore. Roger Ebert gave the film three out of four stars, stating that Jackson's "passion" made "familiar scenes feel new."

Fun Facts

As of June 2011, "Coach Carter" is the 13th highest-grossing sports drama of all time, according to the Box Office Mojo site. Towards the end of the film, Timo Cruz delivers a speech in response to a question posed by Coach Carter earlier in the film: "What is your deepest fear?" His response is lifted from "Return to Love," a book authored by Marianne Williamson in 1992. Channing Tatum -- who played Jason Lyle in the film -- had never played basketball in his life and required extensive training to perform the movie's basketball scenes.