Basketball innovators go from hardwood to the big screen

The sound of high heels clicking against the marble floor and the din of ice cubes in cocktail glasses fills the main lobby of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts on a recent Friday night.

Theresa Shank Grentz barely steps through the glass doors when the crowd, dressed in ball gowns and tuxedos, erupts in cheers.

Standing nearly 6 feet tall, Grentz, one of the winningest coaches in women’s Division 1 basketball, is given a hero’s welcome.

Flashing a made-for-TV smile, she clutches her husband’s arm and makes her way to the red carpet.

Outside the City of Brotherly Love, along a leafy back road, is the birthplace of big time women’s college basketball.

In 1972, Immaculata College, a tiny Catholic women’s college, won the first women’s national collegiate basketball championship.  Grentz was the team’s star player, and a three-time all-American for women’s collegiate basketball.

Forty years after their Cinderella story began, the team’s story comes to life in “The Mighty Macs,” opening nationwide Friday.

The film starring Carla Gugino, Marley Shelton, David Boreanaz and Ellen Burstyn is based on the true story of the school that set the stage for the future of women’s college hoops. Writer and director Tim Chambers watched the Macs practice when he was a kid.

“The Mighty Macs” follows the small team of players lead by the determined Coach Cathy Rush (wife of NBA referee Ed Rush). Despite not having a gym to practice in and wool tunics for uniforms, they went on to win the first dynasty in their game.

Grentz, her former teammates and alumni stepped out for the world premier of “The Mighty Macs” screened first, of course, in Philadelphia. [more]