You've worked on so many films - how did you come from ‘America Undercover' and ‘Schmatta: Rags to Riches to Rags' and end up with this story of high school basketball?
First of all, I happen to be a sports enthusiast and a jock myself. Way back in ancient times, I was the co-captain of my high school basketball team in Maplewood, NJ. So this was a trip back home. Also, I was doing a series for three years for the Sundance Channel, ‘Brick City,' in Newark, so I was deeply embedded in Jersey. That's where I first came across the term "The Bermuda Triangle," that these three small Catholic schools all within 10 miles of each other were called "The Bermuda Triangle" because they sucked in all this talent and nobody ever got out with a victory.
How was your first meeting with the explosive St. Patrick's coach Kevin Boyle?
I felt like he was somebody from the park where I grew up - I mean, Jersey, tough, with an attitude, everybody's out to take advantage of him one way or another, but nobody's gonna get one over on him. But bright and passionate, and obviously he had somewhat of a chip on his shoulder that Bobby Hurley Sr. is the legendary head of the first family of basketball in New Jersey. And Kevin, who had had a winning record against Hurley in the past 10 years, felt he had never gotten his share of the recognition. So, very quickly there was a great character with a lot of story potential, but at the same time, not easy to handle. But I thought, "Hey, I'm a Jersey boy, too. Perfect. Let's go at it."
Was he concerned that you were getting inside his players heads, picking at their emotions before these critical games?
I think there was certainly concern about what you would call competitiveness, and us not getting in the way of them winning and being champions. That was a process, and as the season progressed I think it flipped to, "Hey, we haven't lost a game." And we became a good-luck talisman.
What was it like spending time with these young men, during some really emotional moments?
High school basketball is almost a genre, starting with ‘Hoop Dreams.' I think one of the things we brought was an intimacy with the players and their families off the court. This team really was like a family. And you realize how high school sports are really the last frontier of amateurishness, where these kids are still kids. But even then, it's so changed since I played high school basketball - there are all these companies and agents. A kid like Michael [Gilchrist] is already a superstar. Some kids get lost in that, but he just exuded this sense of, "We're in this together." And that sharing and sense of brotherhood was real, and I have to say, it moved me - I was surprised by it. These guys really did share something unique.