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When professional basketball player Ken Reeves (Ken Howard) suffers a serious knee injury, his career comes to a grinding haltand all his dreams of glory seem shattered. Fortunately an old friend, who is now the principal of a Los Angeles inner-city high school, offers him a job as a basketball coach. Although initially hesitant, Reeves' love of the game finally convinces him to accept the position. But he soon discovers the only thing worse than his team's lack of skill on the court is their lack of belief in themselves off the court. Yet the new coach feels certain that the right combination of guts, sweat, luck and attention will make his players winners in the end.
Hardly a bleeding heart and prone to inopportune wisecracks, Ken nevertheless gets the team on its feet and slowly takes cautious interest in the personal lives of individual players. Over the course of 15 first-season episodes, Ken gets in the middle of his students' problems, including alcoholism, gang affiliations, early fatherhood, racism, and fighting. Ken is not without his own issues and biases, which have to be faced at critical times. In "Just One of the Boys," the addition of a new player, who might be gay, to the team makes him terribly anxious--and embarrassed that he feels that way. "Spare the Rod" finds Ken at his lowest moment after striking a student who punched him in the nose. What makes this story interesting is that every adult in the school rushes to Ken's defense, even praises him for taking a stand. Yet the attention deepens his shame, and makes Ken too ready to forgive his dangerous attacker. Actress Joan Pringle is excellent as vice-principal Sybil Buchanan, Ken's ally-adversary. Be on the lookout for a number of actors who would soon have starring roles on 1980s TV series, among them Michael Warren and Bruce Weitz (Hill Street Blues), Peter Horton (thirtysomething), and Jonathan Frakes (Star Trek: The Next Generation). --Tom Keogh