- This page is about the movie "Hoosiers". Hoosiers is also the nickname of Indiana University athletic teams; see Indiana Hoosiers. For the UK Indie band, see The Hoosiers. For information on the word itself, see Hoosier.
Hoosiers is an 1986 sports film about a small-town Indiana high school basketball team that wins the state championship. The film is set during 1952, when all high schools in Indiana, regardless of school size, competed in one state championship tournament. It stars Gene Hackman as a new coach with a spotty past, Barbara Hershey, Sheb Wooley, and Dennis Hopper as the basketball-loving town drunkard, a performance that brought Hopper an Oscar nomination. The movie was written by Angelo Pizzo, who would go on to co-produce the underdog sports movie Rudy, and directed by David Anspaugh, who directed Rudy. The score was composed by Jerry Goldsmith, who was also nominated for an Oscar for Best Music, Original Score.
Hoosiers was ranked number 13th by the American Film Institute on its 100 Years... 100 Cheers. The film was the choice of the readers of USA Today newspaper as the best sports movie of all time. 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".
In June 2008, AFI revealed its "Ten top Ten"—the best ten films in ten "classic" American film genres—after polling over 1,500 people from the creative community. Hoosiers was acknowledged as the fourth best film in the sports genre.
A museum to commemorate the real life achievements of the 1954 Milan Team has been established — information regarding this project can be viewed here: Milan '54 Museum
The film 'Hoosiers' was re-titled as 'Best Shot' in the United Kingdom.
Based on a true story
The film is said to be based on the story of the 1954 Indiana
state champions, Milan High School
), but the term "inspired by a true story" may be more appropriate as there is little in the movie that coincides at all with Milan's 1953–54 season other than that both were small schools that won the State Championship in the 1950s. The winning shot in the movie was based on Bobby Plump
's last second shot to win the 1954 Indiana State Basketball Championship. In most US states, high school athletic teams are divided into different classes, usually based on the number of enrolled students, with separate state championship tournaments held for each classification. At the time, Indiana conducted a single state basketball championship for all of its high schools, and continued to do so until 1997.
Some elements of the film do match closely with those of Milan's real story. Like the movie's Hickory High School, Milan was a very small high school in a rural, southern Indiana town. Both schools had undersized teams. Both Hickory and Milan won the state finals by two points: Hickory won 42–40, and Milan won 32–30. The final seconds of the Hoosiers state final hold fairly closely to the details of Milan's 1954 final; the final shot in the movie was taken from virtually the same spot on the floor as Bobby Plump's actual game-winner. The movie's final game was even shot in the same building that hosted the 1954 Indiana final, Butler University's Hinkle Fieldhouse (called Butler Fieldhouse in 1954) in Indianapolis.
- In the movie, Hickory begins its season without tryouts, as only seven players are even concerned with playing basketball for Hickory. Two players quit the team on the first day of practice, though one returns the next day and the other also returns to the team later into the season. Jimmy Chitwood is also added halfway through the season, bringing its roster to seven plus Ollie, the manager, who sees some time on account of injuries. At Milan, 58 of the 73 boys enrolled at the school tried out for the team, and had a roster consisting of 10 players.
- The controversy surrounding the coach and his methods, an important element of the movie's story, was completely absent in Milan — at least by 1954. Milan had fired its previous coach, Herman "Snort" Grinstead, after the 1951–52 season for ordering new uniforms against the superintendent's orders. Years later, Plump would tell an ESPN interviewer that Grinstead had been "the most popular coach in Milan's history." While Grinstead's successor, Marvin Wood, would initially make some waves in Milan, he was never the target of a town meeting to have him fired (unlike the movie). In his first season as coach in 1952–53, he would lead Milan to the state semifinals, defusing any remaining criticism.
- The town drunk character in the movie, Wilbur "Shooter" Flatch, is the father of one of the members of the team, and becomes one of the assistant coaches. He has no Milan counterpart.
- In the movie, Hickory's best player initially refuses to play, devastated by the sudden death of his previous coach. This has no parallel in the Milan story; as noted above, Milan's previous coach had been fired two years before their championship.
- Hickory's manager, Ollie MacFarlane, plays in one game when the Huskers have no other players left, and sinks two free throws to win a key game. Milan had a manager with a similar name, Oliver Jones, but he never played.
- The school song played twice in the Hickory/Linton game is not Milan's, but Manchester High School's located in North Manchester, Indiana. Filmakers wanted to use it because it was one of the few only original school songs in Indiana. The song was composed by former Manchester High School band and Manchester Civic Band director Harold Leckrone.
- Hickory is depicted as a massive underdog throughout the movie. Milan entered the 1953–54 season as one of the favorites to win the state title, as it returned four starters from the state semifinalists of 1952–53.
- Close tournament finishes
- In the movie, Hickory wins each of its tournament games by two points or less. In 1954, Milan won seven of its eight tournament games leading up to the final by double-digit margins, and the other by 8 points.
- Wood, who died of bone cancer in 1999, could hardly have been more different from Hickory coach Norman Dale (the Gene Hackman character). Dale is a middle-aged former college coach with a shady past and a volatile temper, and had a romantic relationship with a fellow Hickory teacher. Wood was only 26, and married with two children, when Milan won the state title, and had coached the Indians to the 1953 state semifinals. By almost all reports, Wood was a soft-spoken man of high integrity who often practiced alongside his players.
- The championship game opponent
- In the state championship scene, the movie portrays South Bend Central (chosen presumably because Milan had lost to South Bend Central in the 1953 state semifinals) as a predominantly black team. The real team was from Muncie Central High School, which had a predominantly white team with three black members. The movie probably borrowed from the actual history of the 1954 semistate final (state quarterfinals), in which Milan defeated the segregated Crispus Attucks High School in Indianapolis, led by all-time great Oscar Robertson, then a sophomore. In the movie, the South Bend Central coach is played by Ray Crowe, who coached Crispus Attucks in 1954 and would, the next year, lead the team to become the first all-black team in the United States to win a state championship playing against schools with white players. The Attucks team, with Crowe as coach and Robertson as floor leader, would repeat as state champions in 1956, becoming the first undefeated team in Indiana high school history.
There were other connections between the movie and real life. The announcer of the championship game in the movie was Hilliard Gates
, whose voice was familiar to Indiana high school basketball fans of the 1950s and 60s. The legendary announcer Tom Carnegie
played the role of the public address announcer during the final championship game at Hinkle Fieldhouse
. Ray Craft also has a role in the film, welcoming the Huskers to Butler Fieldhouse as they get off the bus for the championship game. The game winning shot for the championship is shot by Matt Melvin.
Behind the scenes
During filming on location at Hinkle Fieldhouse
, directors were unable to secure enough extras for shooting the final scenes even after casting calls through the Indianapolis media. In order to help fill the stands, they invited two local high schools to move a regular season game to the Fieldhouse. Broad Ripple and Chatard high schools obliged, and crowd shots were filmed during the actual game. Fans of both schools came out in period costumes to serve as extras and to supplement the hundreds of locals who had answered the call. At halftime of and following the Broad Ripple-Chatard game, the actors took to the court and some footage was captured of the state championship scenes, including the game-winning shot by Hickory. (Note: Look closely at the short stands behind one of the Fieldhouse goals and you'll see a Chatard Letterman's Jacket bearing the year '86 worn by one of the student extras.)
The film's producers chose New Richmond, Indiana to serve as the fictional town of Hickory, and recorded most of the film's location shots in and around the community. Signs on the roads into New Richmond still recall its role in the film.
- The Historical Hoosier Gym (the film's location) — http://www.thehoosiergym.com