Coach Carter – Richmond Oilers Basketball Team


The movie Coach Carter is a 2005 film based on the 1998-1999 basketball season of the Richmond High School Oilers in Richmond, California, and the actions of the team’s coach, Ken Carter, to enrich the lives of his players. Carter made national headlines when during an undefeated season he locked out his players from practicing or playing games until they improved their failing grades. Carter’s coaching philosophy, which concentrated on shaping his players as people more than athletes, received praise nationwide but criticism within the community.


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Coach Ken Carter (Samuel L. Jackson) is a local sporting goods store owner who accepts a low-paying offer to coach the Oilers basketball team at Richmond High School, where Carter had been a stand-out athlete in his youth and held several school records. The high school is in a crime-ridden area and has such a high dropout rate that many of its students, including the basketball team members, see criminal activity as the only way of life. When Carter discovers how disrespectful the students are, he decides to implement strict discipline. They are required to address everyone – Carter, each other, and their teachers – as “sir” or “ma’m;” attend all their classes and sit in the front row; wear dress shirts, jackets, and ties during school hours on gameday; and, most importantly, maintain a 2.3 GPA. Carter insists that his players must agree to all of these stipulations by signing contracts, which causes several students to walk off the team, including Timo Cruz (Rick Gonzalez), who has an altercation with Carter. To support his father, Carter’s son Damien (Robert Andrew Richard) leaves his private school to attend Richmond in order to play on the team though it is against his father’s wishes.

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Contributing author: Chris McKittrick

Coach Carter – Real Life, Reel Differences

  • The real-life Ken Carter was extremely supportive of the film and praised its veracity, telling the Chicago Sun-Times that “98.5 percent of what you see is true to my own life and what happened to me. Pretty much the biggest change was simply the names of the players and the teachers, because we didn’t want to embarrass anyone.”
  • However, some of Carter’s players disputed the facts of the movie, particularly regarding the negative portrayal of the personalities of the players pre-lockout. One of Carter’s former players, Kao Saechao, told The Daily Californian, “I like to tell everyone that the movie is probably 50 percent true and 50 percent Hollywood. The characters were falsely portrayed. Coach Carter himself was embellished.” Senior team co-captain Chris Gibson expressed similar sentiment to the Contra Costa Times, saying, “The movie is like, if he didn’t show up, we could have been dead or doing drugs.” Even the school’s junior varsity and freshman basketball coach under Carter during the events depicted in the movie, Darryl Robinson, disputed the truth of the film and said to The Daily Californian, “Hollywood missed it by a country mile. The kids buying drugs and shooting people, that never happened. The kids were a good group to begin with, there were no troublemakers, there was none of that.”
  • Perhaps the most significant change is that the film only depicts Richmond as having a varsity basketball team though in actuality the school also has junior varsity and freshman teams (45 players total), which Carter also coached.
  • The film indicates that Coach Carter was a two-sport All American and that he received a basketball scholarship to George Mason University. However, Carter attended three colleges – San Francisco State, Contra Costa College, and George Fox University – but never George Mason. Furthermore, the film depicts Carter as becoming the coach at the beginning of the 1998-1999 season though Carter actually began coaching the Richmond team in 1997.
  • The movie inaccurately portrays the team’s scores and record numerous times. In the film, the lockout begins when the team is 16-0, though in reality the team’s record was 13-0. In the first game after the lockout, the movie team beat Arlington 82-68, while the real-life team beat St. Elizabeth High School 61-51 in their first game back. The actual team ended the season with a 19-5 record (including two losses shortly after the lockout), but the film does not mention these losses. Finally, in the film the season ends with Richmond losing to St. Francis in the first round of the state tournament, but Richmond actually lost in the second round of the district playoffs.
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Where Are They Now?

Ken Carter continued to coach at Richmond until 2002, when he parlayed his national fame from the lockout story into new business and coaching opportunities. He made headlines again in November 2000 when he rode a kick-scooter from Richmond High School to the California State Capitol in Sacramento in order to raise awareness about school funding issues. Before the release of the movie, Carter coached Rumble, a Slamball team. Slamball is version of basketball involving trampolines. Under Carter, Rumble won the 2002 Slamball Championship. Earlier in 2002 he was selected by the Salt Lake City Olympic Committee to carry the Olympic Torch through the San Francisco Bay Area.

Today, Carter works primarily as an in-demand motivational speaker. He also established the Coach Ken Carter Foundation. According to Carter’s website, the Foundation’s mission is “to assist youth by providing guidance and instruction in personal development, academics and athletics to improve socio-economic conditions for them and their neighborhoods.” He has penned several motivational books including Yes Ma’am, No Sir: The 12 Essential Steps for Success in Life, which was released in 2012, and created several motivational DVDs, which he sells on his website.

In 2009, Carter announced that he was opening a boarding school for boys called The Coach Carter Impact Academy in Marlin, Texas, where he now resides. The school was scheduled to be opened in Fall 2013, however the Academy’s website is nonfunctioning and it appears that the school has yet to open.

Carter also has a presence in on the internet and in social media, but it is unclear how active he is. Carter’s website (www.coachcarter.com) has not been updated since June 2013, and his Twitter account (@CoachKCarter) and Facebook accounts are infrequently updated.

The following is a 2-part documentary where Coach Carter and members of the team react to the true story as well as scenes depicted in the movie.


Since most of the players in the film are composite characters of the actual players, the players in the movie are not accurate depictions of the real Richmond team. However, several of Carter’s players from the 1998-1999 season went on to gain notoriety of their own:

  • Courtney Anderson became an NFL tight end and played for the Oakland Raiders, Detroit Lions, and Atlanta Falcons from 2004-2007.
  • Chris Gibson attended Tulane and became a New Orleans businessman, while another 1999 graduate, Wayne Oliver, went to Cameron University and later played basketball in semi-professional and international leagues.
  • Two other players, Marvin Miranda and Kao Saechao, attended UC Berkeley, and another, Lionel Arnold, attended and played football at Humboldt State.
  • Damien Carter – The movie ends with a title card about that says, “Upon graduation, he received a scholarship to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.” What the movie doesn’t mention is that Damien later transferred to a college in California. The “About Damien” section on the Coach Carter website provides no updates on Damien past attending West Point in Fall 2001.

Overall, every student who played for Carter from 1997 to 2002 graduated from Richmond, which otherwise has a high dropout rate. Additionally, all 45 players from the 1998-1999 season, including those who had the failing averages that had prompted the lockout, attended four-year universities or community colleges.


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