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Still shot from the movie: Coach Carter.

Coach Carter

Coach Carter (Samuel L. Jackson) is just about voted "most -unpopular" when he locks his high school basketball team out of the gym and cancels all games, until the players improve their grade point average. This movie is based on a true story of a man determined to help inner-city kids understand what it takes to succeed both on and off the court.

Overall Grade: B-
Violence: C
Sexual Content: C-
Language: C-
Drugs/Alcohol: C-
Release Date: 13 Jan 2005
Run Time: 136
MPAA Rating: PG-13


In-Depth Review

Education and athletics have faced off before and they surely will again. Particularly when prestige, enormous signing deals and outrageous salaries make winning in the sports arena more appealing than academic achievements. It's an attitude that's tough to deal with for conscientious coaches.

As the new basketball trainer at Richmond High, Ken Carter (Samuel L. Jackson) has just four rules on his players' contract: Maintain a 2.3 GPA, show up at class, sit in the front and wear a shirt and tie on game day.

Hardly earth-shattering provisos. Yet for many of the inner-city students on his squad the requirements are hard ones to live by.

However, Coach Carter is a man with vision. As a former student at Richmond, he still holds numerous basketball records at the school. He also knows there is more to life than dribbling and dunking. And he has the stats to prove the boys on his roster have a better chance of ending up in jail than playing professional ball. Taking time away from his business of running a local sporting goods store, this volunteer staff member determines to ignite a passion for achievement in these young athletes and open up options for success they've never considered.

Unfortunately, Principal Garrison (Denise Dowse) and most of the team members don't agree with the coach's tactics when the boys come up short on their contract. Although the squad is sporting an undefeated record on the hardwood, many of them are failing miserably in their classes. In an unprecedented maneuver, Carter locks the gym doors, cancels games and sends his whole team off for remedial work in the library.

His play riles the ire of many school officials and community members too, especially parents who want the scouts to see their sons in action. But despite the media fervor, job threats and personal taunts, the basketball coach keeps his hoopsters sitting

Rather than focusing on winning state championships, this story centers on the discipline the team needs to succeed on and off the court. It's a brave script considering the allure of professional sports. Still Coach Carter doesn't let up on his demands of the boys. Along with their contract, he insists they refer to him as "sir", keep their attitudes in check and perform physical challenges for insubordination. He also puts a press on the boys' use of a derogatory racial slur. (It's too bad he doesn't do the same for their prolific use of profanities.)

Nevertheless the movie gets a major offensive foul for failing to check these teens' sexual activity... something they seem to have plenty of in their after hours. Following a big win, the boys sneak off to an unchaperoned party with girls they've just met. In the time it takes to set up for a free throw, these boys are stripped to their skivvies or hopping in bed. Unfortunately, the film also screens the players from any consequences for this irresponsible off-court behavior, even when a teen girl faces the decision to terminate her pregnancy.

Based on a true story, Coach Carter is a good reality check for teens (and some parents). With only miniscule numbers of high school athletes making it to the big leagues, emphasizing the student part of student-athlete may be the best thing educators, parents and responsible adults can do to ensure a winning future for aspiring competitors.

Discussion Ideas: Talk About the Movie...

Principal Garrison and many of the other teachers are negative about the students’ chances for success. Why do you think they have this defeatist attitude? What contributes to the parents’ mind-set about education?

Why does Coach Carter lecture the boys when they call each other a derogatory racial slur? What negative terms do you hear used toward ethnic groups, girls and others? How do these expressions affect the way people see themselves and the way they are treated by others?

What successes does the team achieve by the end of the basketball season? In your opinion, what are the benefits of high school sports in the educational system? Can other extracurricular activities have a negative impact on scholastic endeavors?

on the bench until the whole team rebounds.

For more information about the real Coach Carter, check out:

Video alternatives


A math teacher in an inner city school challenges his students to excel despite their economically disadvantaged surroundings in Stand and Deliver. Starting a new job at a recently desegregated high school, a new football coach deals with racial problems in Remember the Titans.

Home Video Notes

DVD Release Date: 21 June 2005
Get all the backroom buzz with Paramount Pictures’ DVD release of Coach Carter. This includes two featurettes, Coach Carter: The Man Behind The Movie and Fast Break At Richmond High, as well as six deleted scenes and the musical video Hope (by Twista, featuring Faith Evans). Available in either wide (enhanced for 16:9 TVs) or full screen, the audio tracks are in English and French (both Dolby Digital 5.1), with English and Spanish subtitles.

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About the Reviewer: Kerry Bennett

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