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The World’s Smartest Basketball Team: They can explain compound interest to Shaq and the theory of relativity to Mark Cuban. But damned if Caltech can beat any of its conference rivals.
By FilmStew Staff
Film Stew
October 31, 2007

The man who sits at the front desk of Caltech’s Brown and Braun gyms, Fred Newman, once made 88 free throws in a row while blindfolded and shot 20,371 free throws within a 24-hour period. But the new documentary Quantum Hoops is neither about this former Caltech student’s world records nor about the only person to ever graduate from the school to a full-time job with the NBA (Denver Nuggets advance statistician Dean Oliver). It’s about the fact that for several decades and change, Caltech’s basketball team has failed to beat any of its conference rivals such as Occidental College . It’s somewhat of a surprising feature documentary debut for baseball nut Rick Greenwald. Given his passion for America ’s pastime and the fact that he proposed to his girlfriend at the 2002 World Series, one would expect him to want to chronicle the futility of say the Chicago Cubs . But after helping edit other people’s documentaries, including Stacy Peralta’s Riding Giants and Paul Crowder’s Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos, Greenwald started researching some topics of his own and eventually settled on the world’s smartest basketball team. “Statistically, it’s the worst team in the history of sports,” he explains. “How no one discovered this story for the last 50 years blows my mind, as the basic elements are virtually unchanged since the 1950’s.” Strangely enough, Peralta had a small role as a shuttle pilot in the 1985 Val Kilmer comedy Real Genius, a film loosely inspired by events at the California Institute of Technology. It’s likely every member of the current Caltech basketball team could calculate, off the top of their head, the probability of an individual such as Peralta figuring into the evolution of two separate films about their university. But man-to-man defense? Forget it. Still ,when Quantum Hoops opens this Friday at Pasadena ’s neighborhood art house, Laemmle’s One Colorado, many students and staff at nearby Caltech are no doubt going to wander down for a showing. After all, no one is making a documentary about all those winning record conference teams. Narrated by David Duchovny, no less.

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