March Madness: Ranking the 13 best quotes from ‘Hoosiers,’ the classic Indiana basketball movie

The entire 2021 NCAA Tournament is being played in the state of Indiana, a state where basketball is a way of life. And so it’s only natural to think about the movie “Hoosiers,” right? 

Such a great movie. And what better way to celebrate a great movie about basketball in the state of Indiana than to rank the best quotes from the movie? I’ve done similar things before — for “Major League”“Bull Durham,” “The Sandlot” and “A League of Their Own” — and those lists have been warmly received, so let’s dive in to “Hoosiers.”

And, yeah, there are only 13 quotes/scenes here. Some of your favorites probably didn’t make the cut, and for that, I apologize. The list could have expanded to 30 and we would not have run out of good lines. 

NCAA BRACKET PICKS: DeCourcy (Gonzaga) | Bender (Illinois) | Fagan (Gonzaga)

13. ‘Younger.’

The setup: Dale walks into Hickory High for the first time. He’s looking for Cletus Summers, the man who hired Dale as the new basketball coach. Dale’s not sure where to go, so he stops one of the teachers on the steps. It’s Myra Fleener.

The words … 
Myra: “You’re not the new coach?”
Dale: “You were expecting somebody different?”
Myra: “Younger.”
Dale: “Sorry to disappoint you.”

Why it’s the best: Welcome to Hickory, coach. Outsiders are not exactly welcome. 

12. ‘I ain’t no gizzard.’

The setup: Moments earlier, Dale ended the coaching days of George, the interim coach. As he’s introducing himself, one of the players, Buddy, keeps talking with another player, Whit. Dale doesn’t like this, and after Buddy smarts off, Dale boots him from the team.  

The words … 
Buddy: “You’re breaking my heart. C’mon, Whit. Let’s fly this chicken coop.”
(Buddy walks off, but Whit stays where he is.)
Buddy: “Let’s move, Gizzard.”
Whit: “I ain’t no gizzard.”

Why it’s the best: I mean, who wants to be known as a gizzard? Also, what is a gizzard?

11. ‘Thank God!’

The setup: The Hickory team runs out of the locker room, onto the court. All except for Strap, who’s kneeling in prayer (as he always does). Coach Dale tells Ollie that if Strap doesn’t finish before the tip, he’ll have to play. As the players break the huddle to start the game, Strap runs out. 

The words … 
Ollie: “Thank God!”

Why it’s the best: Poor Ollie. Your moment will come, kid.

10. ‘My team’s on the floor.’

The setup: Dale has issued a pregame decree that echoes his practice philosophy: Move the ball around, and no shots before at least four passes are made. Well, the game doesn’t start so well, as the lack of shooting leads to a lack of scoring and Hickory falls behind early. Rade, one of the players, decides enough is enough. He starts shooting and scoring. So, Dale takes him out and puts in the only other player on the six-man roster, Ollie. Later in the game, Merle fouls out and Rade jumps up to check himself into the game.

The words … 
Dale: “Where you going?” 
Rade: “In the game.”
Dale: “Sit down.” 
Rade: “What do you mean? We’ve gotta have five out there.”
Dale: “Sit down. Sit!”
Ref: “Coach, you need one more.” 
Dale: “My team’s on the floor.”

Why it’s the best: It’s my way or the highway for Coach Dale’s squad. The best part of the scene just might be the reactions, though. The ref looks at Dale and says, “OK!” like, “It’s your funeral, fella.” And Cletus just shakes his head and says, “What are you trying to do?”

9. ‘Gods come pretty cheap nowadays, don’t they?’

The setup: Jimmy Chitwood, obviously, is the best basketball player in the area. He’s not on the team, and the teacher, Myra Fleener, doesn’t want basketball to overtake Jimmy’s life. 

The words … 
Myra: “I don’t want this to be the high point of his life. I’ve seen them, the real sad ones. They sit around the rest of their lives talking about their glory days, when they were 17 years old.”
Dale: “You know, most people would kill to be treated like a god, just for a few moments.” 
Myra: “Gods come pretty cheap nowadays, don’t they? I mean, you become one by putting a leather ball through an iron hoop. And I hate to tell you this, Mr. Dale, but it’s only a game.” 

Why it’s the best: About a minute later, to drive home her points, Fleener adds this kicker: “Just stay away from Jimmy. I don’t want him coaching in Hickory when he’s 50.” Ouch, teach. Harsh. 

8. ‘I play, coach stays. He goes, I go.’

The setup: Coach Dale did stay away from Jimmy. He told him he didn’t care whether he played on the team, in fact. But the townsfolk aren’t happy, and they’re meeting to take a vote on whether to oust Dale as Hickory’s coach. The vote’s already happened, and the people running the meeting are counting the ballots as Jimmy walks in. All eyes are on him as he strides to the front of the packed room. He turns around and nervously looks out at the crowd. 

The words … 
Jimmy: “I don’t know if it’ll make any change, but I figure it’s about time for me to start playing ball.”
(The crowd erupts in applause.)
George: “I told ya! Once we got rid of him!”
Jimmy: “One other thing. I play, coach stays. He goes, I go.”

Why it’s the best: The look on George’s face is just damn near perfect, as he realizes what’s about to happen. He announced the result of the vote — Dale is ousted, 68 to 45 — but a re-vote is taken, and Dale overwhelmingly is retained.  

7. ‘Make it a good one, Strap.’

The setup: Ollie’s on the free-throw line with the playoff game on the line. Dale’s giving instructions for after he makes his second free throw — “And you will make your second shot.” — and everyone puts their hands together for a “team!” Strap grabs Ollie’s hand, from the other side of the bench, and starts to pray. He’s blocking the rest of the team from running onto the court. Dale, who is about as agnostic a person as you’d find in Indiana in that movie, gives him a moment to finish. 

The words … 
Dale: “Make it a good one, Strap.”

Why it’s the best: Spoiler: It was a good one. 

6. ‘Leave the ball, will you, George?’

The setup: Dale walks into the gym for his first practice as coach. George Walker, a local resident and big basketball fan, is running the practice, as he had been in the absence of a head coach. He suggests a practice strategy, which doesn’t sit well with Dale. 

The words … 
Dale: “First of all, let’s be real friendly here, OK? My name is Norm. Secondly, your coaching days are over.”
George: “Look, mister, there’s two kinds of dumb: A guy that gets naked and runs out in the snow and barks at the moon, and a guy who does the same thing in my living room. The first one don’t matter. The second one, well, you’re kind of forced to deal with.”
Dale: “Translate. Is that some sort of threat?” 
George: “I don’t know why Cletus drug your tired old bones in here. He must have owed you something fierce. Fact is, mister, you start screwing up this team and I’ll personally hide-strap your ass to a pine rail and send you up the line.”
Dale: “Leave the ball, will you, George? Thank you.” 

Why it’s the best: So much is accomplished in this scene, plot-wise. First, all pretense of niceties from the locals disappears, quickly. In less than a minute, Walker goes from offering practice suggestions to threatening to “hide-strap” Dale’s ass to a pine rail. To which Dale, who already knew what was up, politely asks for the basketball (great delivery by Hackman). It’s his team, and he’s doing things his way. We now know that. 

5. ‘It was Dentyne.’

The setup: Hickory’s in trouble. The playoff game is threatening to slip away. Dale turns to one of his players and says, “Buddy, 41 is killing us. Just killing us. Stick with him! I mean, think of chewing gum. By the end of the game I want to know what flavor he is, all right?” Cut to a few minutes later … 

The words … 
Buddy: “It was Dentyne.”

Why it’s the best: How great is that? It was Dentyne. And it’s another W for Hickory. 

4. ‘We’re way past big speech time.’

The setup: The Hickory team is about the take the court for the state title game. The team’s in the locker room. Dale gives a few game notes, then turns introspective.

The words … 
Dale: “We’re way past big speech time. I want to thank you for the last few months. It’s been very special for me. Anybody have anything they want to say?”
Merle: “Yeah, let’s win this’n for all the small schools that never had a chance to get here.” 
Everett: “I want to win for my dad.”
Buddy: “Let’s win for coach, who got us here.”
Dale: “Thank you.”
(The preacher delivers a pregame prayer. Then, a story about David and Goliath. The team stands up, and everyone puts their hands in the middle of the circle.)
Dale: “I love you guys.”

Why it’s the best: Chills. The quiet before the crazy. The moment of reflection. A scene like this easily could have become corny, but that didn’t happen.

3. ‘The sun don’t shine on the same dog’s ass every day …’

The setup: Dale’s walking through the streets of downtown Hickory when he offers to help lift a heavy bag into the truck of Myra Fleener’s mother, Opal. 

The words … 
Opal: “The sun don’t shine on the same dog’s ass every day, but mister, you ain’t seen a ray of light since you got here. I believe it’s time we had a talk. Sunday. Supper.”

Why it’s the best: It’s the best one-liner in the movie. At least, the best one-liner that’s not improved by a moment of drama. 

2. ‘10 feet.’

The setup: The Hickory team walks into the arena where they’ll play the state title game (Butler University’s Hinkle Fieldhouse), and it’s enormous compared to the tiny gyms the players are used to. Dale has a measuring tape. 

The words … 
Dale: “Buddy, hold this under the backboard. What is it?”
Buddy: “15 feet.”
Dale: “15 feet.”
(He walks under the rim)
Dale: “Strap, put Ollie on your shoulders. Measure this from the rim. Buddy? How far?”
Buddy: “Ten feet.”
Dale: “Ten feet. I think you’ll find it’s the exact same measurements as our gym back in Hickory. Let’s get dressed for practice.”

Why it’s the best: The whole scene is perfect. 

1. ‘I’ll make it.’

The setup: The championship game is down to the final seconds. Hickory has fought all the way back and has a chance to win the game. The camera zooms in on the huddle. 

The words … 
Dale: “All right, listen up. Listen up! Here’s what we’re gonna do. Jimmy, they’re gonna be expecting you to take the last shot. We’re going to use you as a decoy. Buddy, you get the ball and get it to Merle on the picket fence. He’s gonna take the last shot. All right, let’s go!”
(Nobody reacts.)
Dale: “What’s the matter with you guys? What’s the matter with you?”
Jimmy: “I’ll make it.” 

Why it’s the best: The confidence! The bravado! The belief in self! How many times have we each told ourselves “I’ll make it” when the ball’s in our hands? Unfortunately, most of us are not Jimmy Chitwood. 

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