A light is being shone on the exciting time of the 1997 NCAA Tournament win of Coppin State University‘s men’s basketball team through a new documentary. Get the full story from Mac Nwulu at the ESPN Press Room below.
One-hour documentary on how Coach Ron “Fang” Mitchell built and led the HBCU men’s basketball program to a historic victory in the 1997 NCAA Tournament
On & Coppin, the one-hour documentary featuring the Coppin State University Eagles men’s basketball team and their journey to the Big Dance, debuts Monday, March 14, exclusively on ESPN+. Presented by Andscape, the multi-media platform dedicated to Black storytelling and content exploring the full range of Black culture and identity, the film is part of the critically acclaimed “Black History Always” collection on The Walt Disney Company sports streaming platform.
On & Coppin chronicles the challenges faced by then head coach Ron “Fang” Mitchell, in his attempt to recruit athletes to a Division I program with no facilities and located on a campus in the midst of crime-ridden West Baltimore, Md. On March 14, 1997 in the face of adversity, Coach Mitchell and his Coppin State Eagles, defied the odds and made history by becoming only the third No. 15 seed to defeat a No. 2 seed in the opening round.
“Andscape is the ideal platform for shining a light on rarely told Black stories such as On & Coppin,” said Raina Kelley, Vice President and Editor-in-Chief, Andscape. “This documentary is part of the visionary storytelling and original content Andscape will commission under the rebrand.”
Felicia “Snoop” Pearson, a Baltimore native who starred in the HBO series “The Wire,” narrates.
“What interested me in working on the Coppin documentary was, ‘they’re from Baltimore’. It is a Black college. They really don’t get any recognition, and I was just happy to be a part of it,” said Pearson, about her role as the narrator. “For me to learn that we won the NCAA tournament game – that meant everything.
“We are just Baltimore. From the heart, from the soul. I was just grateful to grace my presence on this documentary. It meant everything.”
The Coppin State men’s basketball team story is told through footage of games and practices from Coach Mitchell’s Coppin State Eagles teams. The documentary features the voices of coaches, players, and journalists who covered the teams. Focused on the impact of the men’s basketball program, On & Coppin reveals how Coach Mitchell turned the disparity in funding for sports at HBCU compared to predominantly White institutions into an opportunity by scheduling away games at programs that pay to play his team. The funds from the pay-for-play games helped defray costs for the athletic program at Coppin State.
Andscape senior writer Jerry Bembry is the writer/director of the project. Bembry was a sports reporter with The Baltimore Sun during the 1990s, the decade Coach Mitchell and his team turned a commuter school into a vibrant program.
On & Coppin’s producer/director is Ashley Bembry-Kaintuck, a producer with Andscape. Bembry-Kaintuck’s credits include serving as an Associate Producer on Summer Of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), the award-winning documentary directed by Questlove, currently streaming on Hulu, and nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Documentary category in 2022.