'Glory Road' to open in January
EL PASO, Texas -- Sitting in a crowded theater Monday, members of the 1965-66 Texas Western College basketball team, their families and other fans couldn't help but cheer as they watched the Hollywood version of their improbable championship season.
The former players, a little older and grayer, joined coach Don Haskins for a special El Paso screening of the new movie, "Glory Road," which depicts the team's 28-1 season that ended with a stunning defeat of top-ranked Kentucky to win the NCAA championship. The Disney movie is set to be released in January.
The movie version of the Texas Western -- now the University of Texas at El Paso -- championship took some artistic liberties with the team's story, including starting Haskins' history-making coaching career in 1965, nearly five years after he arrived in El Paso.
And Bobby Joe Hill's widow, Tina, swears she didn't meet her husband in a Ciudad Juarez cantina, as depicted in the movie.
"That's the way we were, except for the barmaid part -- I don't know where they got that," Tina Hill joked of how the couple's romance was portrayed. Bobby Joe Hill died of a heart attack in 2002.
Willie Cager, formerly a Miners forward and now an El Paso philanthropist, said producer Jerry Bruckheimer got the Miners' story "about half right."
He said he was pleased with the final product but that no movie could ever show the whole story of the team's success.
But the whittling down of 29 games into about 120 minutes didn't take any of the drama away from a team that broke the color barrier when Haskins started an all-black lineup in the championship game, an NCAA first.
And the audience, including members of the current Miners men's and women's basketball teams, didn't seem to mind as they clapped, whistled and sometimes cringed while watching re-enactments of the team's victories and hostile encounters.
A Haskins cameo -- he makes his film debut as a gas station attendant -- drew boisterous cheers from the packed theater.
Willie Worsley, the shortest Miner at just 5-feet-6, said Haskins' cameo was his favorite part.
"I think the greatest ... part was coach Haskins pumping gas," Worsley said with a wide smile. "I don't think he knew how to pump gas."
David "Big Daddy D" Lattin, a 6-6 center from Houston who was later a first-round NBA draft pick, said he was mostly impressed that the movie was made after so many years.
"I think they did it as well as they possibly could have," Lattin said after the movie.
Lattin, who played two seasons in the NBA, said the portrayal of the team's ups and downs, including repeated encounters with racial slurs and postgame snubs from opposing teams, was also handled well.
As for his tone-setting dunk over NBA coaching legend Pat Riley in the opening minute of the championship game, Lattin just smiled.
"They were playing a ... zone and he just got put in an awkward position," Lattin said.
Monday's afternoon premier was the first of a series of events promoting the movie and celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Miners' run to the NCAA title. Tuesday, a Wheaties cereal box honoring the team will be unveiled.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press