Philadelphia, PA – Wednesday, June 2, 2004 Coach Carter arrived on the east coast to deliver his motivational message to the students of Martin Luther King High School, under the leadership of Ms. Jane Adams, Campus Director.
Ms. Rhonda Lauer, Foundations, CEO, along with Ms. Adams, other administrative staff, and teachers were so moved by the news reports and articles written along with what they had learned and heard of Coach Ken Carter that they decided their students would more than benefit from hearing his inspiring story. This was all they had in mind when they put together a special program for the students entitled; “Average is Just Not Good Enough: A Slam Dunk Lesson in Accountability & Leadership!” There could be no mistaking from that title that Coach Ken Carter would be the keynote speaker.
Since Ms. Lauer cares so much about all the students and the tools/resources they are provided to prepare them for the future, that she did everything possible to make sure they were exposed to all the positive role models she could provide. It was obvious they could not afford to make the trip to Richmond, CA; she believed in everything Coach Carter had done, so she sent for him to come to Philadelphia to share his story with Martin Luther King’s students.
Ms. Lauer said, “When I heard the story of Coach Carter, I couldn’t believe a coach would forfeit a winning streak by placing a pad lock the gym doors, and forego basketball practice to study.” She went on, “That is simply unheard of in real life, it is something out of a movie. Then I learn they are making a movie and I knew I had to do whatever it took to get our students to sit in front of this man and listen.”
Coach Carter gained national attention when he did exactly that, placed a padlock of the gym doors and cancel all basketball games, practices, and related activities of his Varsity team who was undefeated. He forced them to hit the books when he learned many of them were not meeting the expectations of the contract they previously signed. The coach told the team they should not count on simply their athletic potential as a way out of inner city life. The way out requires a sound academic foundation.
As a result, Hollywood thought Coach Carter’s story was worth repeating and the way they do it is by placing it on the big screen for everyone to see. Coach Carter was asked to deliver the commencement address after meeting the faculty and many of the students On January 13, 2004, Tollin/Robbins Productions and Paramount Pictures with MTV Films began filming “Coach Carter” the movie. The movie is being directed by Thomas Carter (“Saved the Last Dance”), and no relation to Coach Carter. “Coach Carter” stars Samuel L. Jackson, co-staring Hip-Hop R&B Singer Ashanti, Rob Brown (Finding Forrester), and Robert Ri’chard (One-On-One), and Debbi Morgan (Soul Food).
Coach Carter came with a blazing message of inspiration. He opened his address by telling the students that in any city or state you travel a familiar sight on city streets, local gymnasiums, and schoolyards, is inner-city kids playing a game of pickup basketball. Most if not all high school basketball players have a mixture of dreams that include playing in the NBA. However life’s realities tell us everyone will not make it to the NBA. And it is not just the young men; it is our female athletes too with desires of going to the WNBA.
Some real truths however is that many won’t make it to the college varsity team, must less the NBA/WNBA; but all of you can get an education. You can all earn your high school diploma. Go one to college and fight as hard as you would on the basketball court to earn your college degree, and then even try to challenge yourselves to take it to another level and make it in the Hall of Fame by completing your Master’s Degree. This is not just student-athletes, but all of you.
As he always does, Coach Carter gave the students advice about accountability, integrity, teamwork and leadership to succeed both on and off the basketball court. He urged students to strive to be men and women of integrity and high moral character, to give back to the community through their service, and do the right thing at all times, “even when no one else is around.”
Coach Carter introduced the audience to his “Triangle Offense!” His triangle offense is as he stated, “. . . something to get your head to think, your hands to hold, and to touch hearts and change your lives.” Carter stated that his triangle offense is like that of Coach Phil Jackson’s of the Los Angeles Lakers. Coach Jackson’s triangle offense has created a championship team. Coach Carter’s triangle offense is designed for students and will make them successful in life!
Coach Carter provided the students of Martin Luther King with a special treat. Paramount Studios provided Coach Carter with a first draft of the trailer for “Coach Carter” the movie due in theaters October 15, 2004. When the trailer began the crowd went wild. The students knew what they had heard Coach Carter say, and they knew what was said while he was being introduced, but to actually see a clip of the movie made it a reality for them. They were thrilled to see Samuel L. Jackson portraying Coach Carter. One student shouted out; “Coach, he looks just like you! How did they do that?” When with the portion that featured Ashanti filled the screen that was all beside them selves with excited. The question didn’t stop. They all wanted to know everything the Coach could tell them about the Hip-Hop Singer.
Coach Carter brought his presentation to a close with the students’ hands waving in the air, the speech culminated with a rousing standing ovation. Ms. Adams’ was overwhelmed with the reaction of the students. Ms. Adams stated, “This was even better than we anticipated. Coach Carter is phenomenal the way he holds these students attention. They were actually listening and taking it all in.”
At the end of the presentation Coach Carter received a standing ovation. A special gift presentation was made to Carter, making him an official Martin Luther King High School member. The students were so excited they didn’t want to return to class. Coach Carter was given a guided tour of the school grounds and escorted to the music department.
It was evident that the students of Martin Luther King High School appreciated the fact Coach Carter traveled to Philadelphia. The time in the music room turned into a regular performance for The Coach. Students, teachers, and parents alike had all begun to audition for a part in the “Coach Carter” movie or the next movie The Coach was involved. They were all hyped. Most of the students wanted to come back to Hollywood with Coach Carter to become movie stars.
Much of the entertainment was to show their gratitude for his appearance here and Coach Carter reminded them, that coming to Hollywood is the same as those “Hoop Dreams”, everyone can’t be a star or be famous. He reminded them of what Dr. Martin Luther King., Jr. once said; “Not everyone could be famous, but everyone can be great; because greatness is determined by your service.”
Many of the students and teachers stopped Coach Carter to say thank you. There was a photographer that snapped pictures of many of the students with Coach Carter and they were all more than happy to pose. He even found himself signing autographs. One of the administrators told Coach Carter as he was leaving that, “Most of the adults took notes and received just as much from your message as the students.”
AROUND THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA
Before Coach Carter left Philadelphia, he took the opportunity to meet with M. Christine Wiggins, Executive Director and Founder of Imhotep Institute Charter High School. Coach Carter shared how inspiring and very encouraging it was to know that there are still people like Ms. Wiggins, and her staff that are dedicated to the students in the community.
Imhotep Institute Charter High School’s focus is to provide a firm educational foundation. They are equipped with computer labs, special math and reading programs, and an amazing library. The school’s motto is, “Know Thyself”. Not only is the school focused on the basic education and college preparation courses, but it has an enlightening cultural platform for our children to learn, stand, and be proud.
By: J. Williams, Staff Writer
Community News – Los Angeles, CA