Saturday, February 2, 2013

After the Credits -- Hoosiers

After the Credits is an ongoing feature where we take the best sports movies ever made and give our opinion on what happened to our favorite fictional characters after the movie ended. Previous entries include The Natural, Bull Durham and Jerry Maguire.

-- by @Josh_Suchon

The movie ends with tiny Hickory High upsetting a taller and more athletic team from South Bend in the 1952 Indiana state championship game. Star player Jimmy Chitwood hits the game-winning shot. Head coach Norman Dale is vindicated. The fans rush the court in celebration. We then see cornfields, a sunset, a kid shooting hoops, and we hear a voiceover of the coach saying, "I love this team."

So what happened after the credits?

Head coach Norman Dale (Gene Hackman): This was clearly a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately town, so even winning a state championship did not lead to job security for Dale. Remember, he lost his previous job after hitting a student and he had a famous temper. He was actually fired a few games into the season, but only kept his job when star player Jimmy Chitwood decided that he would only start playing if the coach remained. The next season, without Chitwood, the Hoosiers crashed back to earth and didn’t make the playoffs. Midway through the following season, the town had enough of Dale and fired him. Dale was resilient, bouncing from job to job, at high schools, small colleges, and as an assistant in bigger colleges. He kept making great speeches and turned around some struggling teams, but always wore out his welcome. His modern-day equivalent would be Kevin O’Neill.

Assistant coach “Shooter” Flatch (Dennis Hopper): The town drunk was able to (mostly) clean up his act during the movie and serve as a valuable assistant coach to Dale. Like most alcoholics, it wasn’t easy for him to stay sober. He fell off the wagon numerous times over the years. Shooter didn’t get the head coaching job when Dale was fired. He was fired too, and that led to him getting back on the sauce. His knowledge of basketball was never in dispute though. Coaches throughout the country would seek him out to learn his philosophies, especially the perfect way to run “the picket fence.” These coaches kept money in his pocket and provided some stability in an otherwise chaotic life.

Myra Fleener (Barbara Hershey): The faculty member who didn’t like the importance that basketball was placed in the community was caught up in the excitement of the state title run in the movie. After the Cinderella season, her awkward relationship with head coach Norman Dale was doomed to fail. When he was fired, there was no way Fleener would follow him from random town to town, as he looked for his next basketball job. Fleener fell in love with another faculty teacher, somebody who didn’t care about sports, and they got married. They had five children, all boys. They all played basketball. Fleener reluctantly took them all to basketball practices, bought them high top Converse shoes, and still thought basketball was stupid.

Jimmy Chitwood (Maris Valainis): Big-time college recruiters didn’t know about the small-town prodigy until his heroics in the playoffs. Already a shy kid, the overwhelming attention made him uncomfortable. The public was obsessed with him and he was pressured into signing with the storied Indiana Hoosiers. His first year in college was a disaster. He didn’t like the huge campus, struggled with the expectations, and the coach didn’t allow him to shoot at will. 

Frustrated, Chitwood transferred to Indiana State. He thrived in the smaller environment and the coach gave him the green light to shoot whenever he wanted. Chitwood led the Cyclones in scoring his next three years, led the nation in scoring as a senior and the Cyclones advanced to the Final Four. That fueled a media frenzy of whether Chitwood could do for Indiana State what he did for Hickory four years earlier. Alas, the Cyclones were dominated by UCLA and the fairytale ended. Chitwood was a late first-round draft pick in the NBA, but struggled to get his shot off against superior defenses. He bounced around the NBA for a few years, made a decent living playing in Europe, and he’s now a renowned shooting coach. Jimmy Chitwood’s modern-day equivalent, naturally, is Jimmer Fredette.

Ollie (Wade Schenck): The team manager who was forced into a critical playoff game, nearly choked it away, and improbably won a game with two free throws wasn’t done with his 15 minutes of fame. Ollie hoped to get more playing time the following season. But the success of the team led to more kids trying out for the team. Ollie only played in garbage time. 

He kept his sense of humor, learned the nuisances of the game, and became a sports reporter for the local newspaper. His reporting was sold, and soon enough the Indianapolis Star lured him to the big city. Ollie covered college basketball, then the Indiana Pacers, and retired as a beloved sports columnist. His modern-day equivalent is Andy Katz.

Whit and Rade Butcher (Brad Boyle, Steve Hollar): Whit was kicked off the team early in the movie for disrespecting the coach at practice. He apologized to the team and returned. His brother Rade got in trouble in the opening game for shooting too much. After high school, they played junior college basketball together, then walked onto the Indiana State team. (The coach did anything to make Jimmy happy, including putting his old buddies on the team.) Both became high school basketball coaches.

Everett Flatch (David Neidorf): He was the son of drunken assistant coach Shooter. You might recall him punching an opposing player after Chitwood was intentionally fouled on a breakaway layup, then got shoved into a glass trophy case. Of course, he started drinking like his Dad. There’s a lot of pent-up anger in that kid. He became a high school basketball coach.

Buddy Walker (Brad Long): Buddy was also kicked off the team early in the movie, but mysteriously reappeared in a later game with no explanation for how he was re-instated. He became a high school basketball coach.

Merle Webb (Kent Poole): His most famous line was in the locker room before the final game when he told his teammates, “let’s win this one for all the small schools that never had a chance to get here.” He became a high school basketball coach.

Strap Purl (Scott Summers): He was the son of the preacher who during a timeout late in one game said an extra prayer for a teammate about to shoot free throws. He became a preacher … and a high school basketball coach.