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Gene Hackman as Coach Norman Dale: 5 Quotes About the Iconic Role

Image: Gene Hackman as Coach Norman Dale: 5 Quotes About the Iconic Role
Gene Hackman in Hoosiers, 1986. (imdb.com)

By    |   Friday, 15 May 2015 09:56 PM

Coach Norman Dale pulled one of the greatest sports upsets in cinematic history, leading tiny Hickory High to the Indiana high school basketball title in “Hoosiers.” Actor Gene Hackman already had an Oscar in hand before taking on this role, but this would prove to be perhaps one of his most inspirational parts.

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Hackman urged his team to the title-game upset in the 1986 film “Hoosiers,” famously measuring the basketball court to show his small-town team that the game is not any bigger in the big city, The New York Times said. Then he followed with an inspirational speech that speaks to the basics of using lessons on the court. The newspaper called the movie, “about as sweetly unself-conscious as a film can be.” 



The following are five quotes about Hackman’s role as Coach Norman Dale:

“(Dale’s) unconventional training methods, with their stressing of fundamentals, upset almost as many people as does his taciturn manner."

“It’s hard to imagine anyone playing Norman Dale more convincingly than Gene Hackman does. An understated actor with a sad-but-determined presence, Hackman gives us a hero with dignity and quiet power. There’s something in Norman’s self-consciously upright posture that suggests he knows what it means to fail miserably. But bitterness isn’t part of the portrait, just determination.” – From an Orlando Sentinel review.

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“I left high school while I was playing basketball. I was not getting along with the coach. The coach is a lot like the one I play in ‘Hoosiers.’” – Hackman on his role to the Morning Call in 1987, shortly after the film was released.  

“All of (screenwriter Angelo Pizzo’s) knowledge would be pointless without Hackman’s great performance at the center of this movie. Hackman is gifted at combining likability with complexity – two qualities that usually don’t go together in the movies. He projects all of the single-mindedness of any good coach, but then he contains other dimensions, and we learn about the scandal in his past that led him to this one-horse town. David Anspaugh’s direction is good at suggesting Hackman’s complexity without belaboring it.” – Roger Ebert

“What do you get when you mix one part Dean Smith, one part Vince Lombardi, one part Casey Stengel and one part Red Auerbach? About half the coach that Norman Dale is.” –The New York Post’s Mike Vaccaro, writing in January 2008 about his favorite film coaches. He ranked Dale at the top of the list, comparing him favorably to University of North Carolina basketball legend Smith, Green Bay Packers icon Lombardi, Stengel, the manager of the great New York Yankees teams of the 1950s and Auerbach, who launched the Boston Celtics on their run of success in the 1960s. 

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“Mr. Hackman is exactly right for the role of Norman Dale, bringing shrewdness and a varied temperament to a man who might otherwise seem bland.”  – Janet Maslin, The New York Times

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Coach Norman Dale pulled one of the greatest sports upsets in cinematic history, leading tiny Hickory High to the Indiana high school basketball title in "Hoosiers." Actor Gene Hackman already had an Oscar in hand before taking on this role.
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