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Morning Buzz: We'd hardly call 'em losers - A MOVIE ABOUT CALTECH HOOPS?
By John Ryan
The Mercury News
February 13, 2008

Herm Edwards said it, wrote a book about it even, and it's so simple: You play to win the game.

But how do you play knowing there's no chance you will win the game? That's the theme of the wildly engaging movie "Quantum Hoops," which ends a one-week run Thursday night at Shattuck Cinemas in Berkeley and is looking for wider distribution.

The documentary follows the Caltech basketball team through the 2005-06 season, as the Beavers try to end a Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference losing streak that began in 1985 and has stretched to more than 240 games. First-time director Rick Greenwald, sensing that players were wary that this was going to be another media outlet landing jokes at their expense, set out to show the students as athletes.

Greenwald said in an interview this week that the streak "eats at them. Even the years where they know going in that they're going to lose by 60 . . . that still ate at their soul."

Eight players were high school valedictorians, and only six played high school basketball. (Travis Haussler, a reserve for Santa Cruz High's 2005 state champs, lands on both lists.) The movie draws humor from their situation and from the archives, where we find notable alumni (Frank Capra?) and reminders of the school's long-ago athletic glory (the Los Angeles Times previewing the "grudge" match against UCLA).

There's also irresistible trivia:

• In 1980, the Beavers ended a nine-year losing streak by beating Pomona-Pitzer, which was coached by Gregg Popovich.

• Dreams of victory were dashed in the late '80s when a 6-foot-7 former high school star dropped out of school to become a professional poker player. Huckleberry Seed went on to win the 1996 World Series of Poker's main event.

There's smart-guy humor. One former coach recalls the time he used an old coaching cliche, you can't put a square peg in a round hole; at the end of the season, he got a trophy consisting of a square peg in a round hole. And there's a conclusion we wouldn't dare give away, except to say the edge-of-your-seat emotions rival those of "Hoosiers" and "The Natural."

Here's hoping this movie gets to more theaters or in-home outlets. Some salty language would merit a PG-13 if it were rated, but it should be mandatory viewing for every high school coach and athlete in the country.

It would make Bill Belichick a better man, that's for sure.

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