Hoosiers is a 1986 sports film about a small-town Indiana high school basketball team that wins the state championship. The story is set during 1951/1952, when all high schools in Indiana, regardless of size, competed in one state championship tournament. 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 Sheb Wooley, and features Dennis Hopper as the basketball-loving town drunkard. His performance earned him an Oscar nomination.
The movie was written by Angelo Pizzo and was directed by David Anspaugh. Pizzo next co-produced the underdog sports movie Rudy (1993), which was also directed by Anspaugh. Jerry Goldsmith was nominated for an Oscar for his score of Hoosiers. When released in the United Kingdom, the film was re-titled as Best Shot.
Norman Dale arrives in the rural Indiana town of Hickory to be a high school teacher and basketball coach. He had lost a previous coaching position after striking a student, so is under pressure to succeed.
Like much of the state, Hickory's community is passionate about basketball. People are aware that the best player in town, Jimmy Chitwood, does not intend to play on this season's team. Faculty member Myra Fleener warns the new coach not to try to persuade Jimmy to change his mind; she believes he needs to focus on school work, in order to get a scholarship to attend college and have a better future.
The school enrollment is so small that Dale has only a few players on his squad. But, when his strict rules are disobeyed, he dismisses a key member from the team. The coach alienates the community with a slow, defensive style that does not immediately produce results and by losing his temper, which causes him to be ejected from more than one game. Dale needs a new assistant coach and invites knowledgeable basketball fan Shooter, the alcoholic father of one of his players, to join him on the bench. This, too, confounds the town, including Shooter's son.
By the middle of the season, an emergency town meeting is called to vote on whether Dale should be dismissed. Fleener appreciates the coach's staying away from Chitwood and sides with him, but the town votes him out. At the last minute, Chitwood asks permission to speak: he says he's ready to begin playing basketball again, but only if Dale remains as coach.
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