“Mighty Macs” review

It would have been easy for this movie to be sappy.

The central message of “The Mighty Macs” is to never give up on your dreams. But the fuel behind such efforts is to believe in yourself, which is something every athlete and coach knows. Coach Cathy Rush’s coaching style called for her players to be strong, which is the right way to deliver the message to believe in yourself. And strong the Macs were. The fact that they won the title in 1972 on an at-large bid is nothing short of miraculous – not to mention the two titles that came after that.

It’s also more women’s basketball history that every fan should know: the fact that longtime coach Theresa Grentz played on the team, as did Marianne Stanley.

Stanley set the record right on the Macs in this piece:

She clarified a common misconception. The Macs, she said, were not a collection of ragtag individuals who couldn’t dribble or shoot a left-handed layup. They were, in fact, “a special group. We could play. We were all overachievers. And we had a great coach (Cathy Rush, played in the film by Carla Gugino). Once we got rolling, we knew we had something special going on.”

Equally fascinating, Seattle University Coach Joan Bonvicini was on the team that lost to the Macs the following year, in the championship semifinals.

As I watched the movie and thought about how every young baller ought to see it, I also decided that not many of today’s players would be able to last through the year and do what Rush asked them to do. Too many quitters out there nowadays.

The film’s central message about resilience, which was reflected continuously in the dialogue, is timeless. But how many people fight for something anymore? Not nearly enough.

I’ve been re-re-re-reading Pat Summitt’s “Raise the Roof” lately, and ironically, I had just read the part where Summitt talks about tearing her ACL in 1974, her senior year in college:

“Watching Kyra I remembered lying in a hospital bed, trying not to sob, as a doctor told me I would never play basketball again. Most men didn’t return to the court from ACL tears, he said, much less a woman. I had my heart set on playing in the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.

My father stared the doctor down, and said, ‘Play? She’s going to make the Olympic team. So you fix it, and fix it right.”

They don’t make ’em like they used to.

Go see “The Mighty Macs.” You’ll be glad you did.