‘Tin Can Man’ premiere will be a ‘party night’ for Bearcat Nation
Always on the lookout for sports stories with drama and a moral, Keith Dunnavant instantly connected with the 1972 Hendersonville High School Basketball Champions season.
Author of biographies on sports legends Paul “Bear” Bryant and Joe Montana, guest commentator on ESPN and the SEC Network, and documentary filmmaker, Dunnavant intuitively felt Bearcat’s story would be worthy of his “Prep Legends” series. His 30-minute documentary, “The Tin Can Man,” will premiere Friday, August 5 at Hendersonville High School’s newly renovated auditorium.
“First of all, the fact that they are a two-tier underdog team,” he said. “They went from 2-A to 3-A on purpose, which is a big deal, and also the fact that they were a pretty small team compared to a lot of these guys, including Pinecrest, who was dominating them in this championship. Game.
“And then of course what makes it culturally relevant is that it coincides with when coach (Jim) Pardue started four African Americans for the first time at a time when – when you peel the onion about it – it was just a natural transition, I think, for the city.
Desegregation occurred with less conflict in Hendersonville than in many small towns in the South. The city’s schools had integrated in 1965, so black and white children had adapted to classroom work and play together.
“By the time these guys, once they were seniors in 71-72, they had gone through integration together, and so it felt natural the moment they all came together on this great basketball team,” Dunnavant said. The Outsiders team “creates this defining moment in the cultural integration of the community, which we saw reflected throughout the South at this time”.
Dunnavant interviewed a dozen people, “including team members, a few fans, people connected to the program”, in a series of visits that imbued the sports historian and the crew with the spirit of the Bearcat Nation.
“The whole community and the whole school welcomed us with open arms and helped us with whatever we needed,” he said. “We had members of the current basketball team helping us with some re-enactments, so they’re involved. …I can absolutely see what a special school it is. The reason I do stories like this is because I believe in the power of small towns and their teams. I grew up in small town Alabama myself and know what it could mean for a community to have a great team “connecting with the townspeople” on a very personal level. I don’t come as someone who has read about it. I felt it in my life. So when I come to a town like Hendersonville, I absolutely see what a special place it is.
“Tin Can Man” producer, director and screenwriter Dunnavant thanks cinematographer Jonathan Hickman for his talent and dedication to filming and editing the documentary.
“It’s a night of celebration for the whole community, and we want everyone to come out and celebrate, first of all, by helping us raise money for the Boys and Girls Club, which is a great cause, and come out and celebrate,” the filmmaker said. “I really liked Hendersonville. It’s a lovely town, and I feel a connection to your community. In the credits, I want them to feel like they’ve traveled back in time, that they understand and feel what a special team this was and how much it meant to the community and be proud of what this team meant to Hendersonville and what it still means.