Stanley feeling bad about himself is more subtext than text in Sandler’s disciplined, low-key portrayal. At a meeting with the team owner Rex Merrick (Robert Duvall), Stanley strongly urges not signing a German player. Rex’s son Vince (Ben Foster, bearded and head shaven, signaling a real lack of vanity, as he looks appropriately ridiculous) wants the guy, and Stanley backs down. Rex notices this before awarding Stanley a coveted assistant coach job.
The gig doesn’t last. Rex passes away, Vince takes over, and the twerp demotes Stanley, instructing him he can get the coaching gig back if he goes back on the road and finds a missing piece.
In Mallorca, Spain, Stanley is entertained by an old friend who wants him to become an agent. No way says Stanley. He wants that assistant coach job back. Hanging on to a dream? “Guys in their fifties don’t have dreams,” he says. “They have nightmares and eczema. And yet. In Spain he sees a local player who’s got the stuff. Bo Cruz (Juancho Hernangomez, a real-life player currently with the Utah Jazz), a tall drink of water with a lot of raw talent, a bit of a temper, and as we learn later, a rap sheet. Vince is resistant, Stanley brings the player to the States anyway, and is soon freelance.
At this point, the movie, directed by Jeremiah Zagar, turns into a variation of “Rocky” had it been told from the point of view of coach Mickey Goldmill (Burgess Meredith). Putting his family’s life on the line—fortunately his wife and teen daughter believe in him—he works at sanding down Bo’s rough edges, doing stair runs in the wilds of South Philly, and teaching Bo how to handle trash talk, which proves a rather persistent issue. Once Bo reaches a certain goal Stanley even exclaims “Yeah, Rocky!”
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