In 2013, the Indiana Basketball Hall of fame will welcome some atypical honorees: Screenwriter Angelo Pizzo and director David Anspaugh will be inducted not for their skills on the court, but for their work behind the camera. The two collaborated on the 1986 basketball film Hoosiers.
“I grew up in Bloomington, Ind.,” Pizzo told Bill Littlefield. “I grew up as a huge basketball fan—high school basketball fan in particular—so it’s a thrill. It would be a shock to all the high school kids I played basketball with to know that I ever got into the hall of fame, cause I never could go to my left.”
Twenty-six years after the release of Hoosiers, Pizzo said he and Anspaugh weren’t completely surprised to learn they would be inducted.
“We had some inkling that there were some people trying to get us in,” he said.
Pizzo set out to create a movie about Milan High School’s 1954 championship season, but found he had to make some adjustments to the story.
“I realized very quickly that the actual story wasn’t going to work. And that was because the premise that I always operate under is: the essence of all drama is conflict. And the truth is, about this team and the coach, is that they’re great, terrific people and they all got along. So I needed and wanted the freedom to create the characters ad hoc.”
The result was a gruff coach, played by Gene Hackman, leading a rag-tag high school team to the state championship game. In one scene, as the team arrives at Hinkle Fieldhouse, the players are clearly intimidated by the size of the championship venue. Hackman has his players use a measuring tape to remind them the hoop was 10 feet off the ground just like the ones at their home court.
“That actually was based upon a story I heard, that another coach on another team from a smaller school did exactly the same thing,” Pizzo said. “We created a visual correlative by using the tape measure, but it was a story I borrowed about another team walking into that great facility.”
In 1996, Indiana changed its winner-take-all format for the state’s high school tournament. Today, there are four tournaments with fields divided up by school size. The little town-big city matchup in Hoosiers is a thing of the past.
“It takes a lot away from the tournament itself. The excitement is just not there in the regionals and semi-states and the different levels. I think the athletic directors and principles who voted on this wanted a shot to get their own title and were tired of getting beat by the bigger schools. I think they did the game of basketball in Indiana a disservice.”
Pizzo and Anspaugh will be inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame on March 20, 2013. They will also receive the St. Vincent Health Silver Medal Award, given in recognition of contributions to Indiana high school basketball by someone other than a high school player or coach.