“The Mighty Macs”
Very Good (3 stars)
Running time: 98 minutes
Studio: Quaker Media
When Cathy Rush (Carla Gugino) was hired to coach basketball at Immaculata College in the early Seventies, athletics were a low priority at the all-female, Catholic institution. It didn’t even have a functional gym, so the team had to host its home games at a nearby high school.
Initially, the new coach didn’t get any sympathy from the administration about the inconvenience, since the college had serious financial problems. Furthermore, the Mother Superior (Ellen Burstyn) considered sports primary function as a means of suppressing the girls’ raging hormones.
But Rush was never discouraged by the lack of support or by the disadvantage of having a student body of fewer than 500 from which to pick players. So, joined on the bench by dedicated assistant, Sister Sunday (Marley Shelton), she proceeded to forge a competitive squad, placing an emphasis on teamwork and fundamentals. And by the end of the 1972 season, tiny Immaculata had blossomed into a respected powerhouse in contention for the national title.
That unlikely assault on the championship is the subject of “The Mighty Macs,” an overcoming-the-odds sports flick reminiscent of such basketball classics as “Hoosiers,” “Glory Road” and “Coach Carter.” This similarly-themed adventure chronicles the miracle season of a motley crew of underdogs inspired to overachieve with the help of a devoted, no-nonsense coach.
What makes this hoops saga unique is the fact that its hero is a female at a pivotal moment in the emergence of women’s intercollegiate athletics. The pioneering Cathy Rush was rightfully recognized for her critical contributions in this regard in 2008, the year she was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
A touching tale of female empowerment serving as a worthwhile reminder that girls weren’t always encouraged to play sports.