The “Mighty Macs” movie hits theaters Friday

In 1971, when Pat Summitt was still a college student and Geno Auriemma was in high school, 23-year-old Cathy Rush stepped into the coaching position for the Immaculata College women’s basketball team.

The “Mighty Macs” didn’t have a home court because theirs had burned down. The team, which struggled to recruit and keep enough players to compete, had to practice at local gyms and play all its games on the road. The college administration at the Catholic school for women was less than supportive, especially when Rush wanted to put her girls through a tough practice regimen. The school itself was in dire straits financially. By all appearances, the Macs didn’t have a prayer.

But Rush persevered and, in 1972, the team went to the first ever women’s college basketball national championship. The school had a 15th seed (out of 16) and got to the tournament by selling toothbrushes to raise money. As you’ve probably guessed, the Mighty Macs won the championship — for three years in a row.

The story is the stuff dreams — and movies — are made of. Forty years later, both are reality; The Mighty Macs opens in theaters nationwide Friday.

Here’s the trailer.

Writer/director Tim Chambers said he remembered Carla Gugino‘s work in Karen Sisco and wanted that kind of swagger for Coach Rush.

Gugino recommended Marley Shelton to play assistant coach Sister Sunday and Ellen Burstyn as Immaculata’s Mother Superior.

David Boreanaz plays Rush’s husband, Ed, who discovered that life with Cathy meant something different than a traditional early ’70s marriage.

The Mighty Macs’ championship team included women who have gone on to storied careers: Theresa Shank Grentz was the nation’s first full-time WBB coach at Rutgers; Marianne Crawford Stanley coached at ODU and for the WNBA; Rene Portland coached at Penn State (until forced to resign after years of blatant homophobia). That meant that the film’s seven Mighty Macs members needed actual skills. Chambers wouldn’t allow any actresses to audition until he saw them play basketball.

Of course, the story is about much more than an underdog team winning. Remember, 1972 was the year Title IX went into effect. Women’s sports got little notice and even less respect. But as the Mighty Macs came together, Rush recalls, each member of the team realized that she deserved to dream — and could make her dreams come true.

My personal dream is to find a girlfriend who’s as sexy as Carla Gugino and coaches women’s basketball. I know where I’ll be when the movie opens this weekend.

How about you? Will you support the Mighty Macs? Once you see it, come on back and give us your review. By the way, the movie is rated G, approved for girls of all ages.

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