Interview: Tim Chambers, Writer-Director of “The Mighty Macs”

The Newtown Square native shares stories from his labor of love, which opens on Friday

Tim Chambers, writer-director of the new women’s-basketball movie, The Mighty Macs, became an expert in fast breaks before he knew how to dribble. It was a biological imperative.  As one of 12 kids growing up in a house with three bathrooms in Newtown Square, Chambers had no choice. He was number eight in the birth order.

“Sure, we fought over bathroom time,” Chambers, 48, says with a quick laugh. “The shower was never turned off. We just rotated in and out. Whoever got up late knew they would get a cold shower.”

Chambers expects a warmer reception for The Mighty Macs when it opens nationally on Friday. (The world premiere was held at the Kimmel Center last week. See photos from the red-carpet event here.) It tells the improbable story of the 1972 national championship women’s team from Immaculata College, an all-girls Catholic school in Chester County.

Carla Gugino, last seen as the ball-busting head of a movie studio on Entourage, plays legendary coach Cathy Rush, with homeboy David Boreanaz (Bones) as her husband, ex-NBA ref Ed Rush. Oscar-winner Ellen Burstyn is featured as Mother St. John.

Chambers was 10 when he witnessed his first Mac Attack. The impression was indelible. A fire in Immaculata’s gym had forced the team to practice at various area locations, including his elementary school, Saint Anastasia, in Newtown Square. Chambers was at basketball practice himself when the girls first entered the basement gym.

“I was mesmerized,” he recalls. “I had never seen anything like it. They [Mighty Macs] were such great athletes. The way they came in, the way they practiced, their movement and cohesiveness, was so cutting edge for the time. Kathy Rush’s swagger and style and leadership were etched in my mind forever.”

It almost took forever for The Mighty Macs to make it to the big screen. Between the tanking economy, raising money independently, taking the movie on the family-friendly festival circuit and finding a distributor, it was a four-year odyssey for Chambers and his partners.

His budget was $7.5 million, tiny by industry standards. Some of the cast was a family affair–Chambers’ three sons are extras in a scene in a diner, and his mother, who passed away two years ago, has a cameo as a nun. Also in the habit are many of the players from the ’72 title team.

Chambers, Ivy League Player of the Year as a Penn defensive back in 1984, says the women’s game has become so big that the odds against a Cinderella team going all the way at the highest level are staggering.

The Mighty Macs’ Year of Magical Thinking was “a harmonic convergence,” says Chambers. “It was the right team with the right coach at the right place at the right time. It will never be done again.”

Chambers hopes that once will be enough for filmgoers.