Last August while enjoying the reunion with his teammates from the 1996 National Championship team, Cameron Mills got the idea to create a documentary on the team. The unique bond the players had, and still have today would be a story worth telling.
So Cameron enlisted the help of some talented professionals, WKYT’s Dick Gabriel and Jason Epperson of Eppic Films to turn his idea into reality. Four months later after hundreds of hours of editing and polishing, “The Team made its debut on Christmas Day, airing on several regional television stations. It was also available for purchase digitally which was the “Director’s Cut” which included 16 minutes of additional footage not seen on TV. That bonus content included a memorable tribute to the late Mr. Wildcat, Bill Keightley.
The reaction to the documentary has been, according to Mills, “Incredible. There’s not a single negative thing I’ve heard.” One of the byproducts of the film, though certainly not the goal was hearing how so many, many fans who said they now had a harder time hating Pitino. Mills continued, “It showed a different side to Rick Pitino. You could see that he loves Kentucky. You got to see a more humble side of him.” One fan told Cameron he was mad because “now I can’t hate Rick as much as I used to.”
Saturday night, at the Kentucky Associated Press Awards, all the blood, sweat, and tears that Mills, Gabriel, and Epperson put into “The Team” was rewarded as they were the winners of “Best Sports Special.” I asked Cameron what his reaction was when he realized they had won the award:
“The last thing I ever thought was that it (“The Team”) would win an award. It was one of the proudest moments of my life. My immediate reaction was gratitude; gratitude for Dick Gabriel and gratitude for Jason Epperson. Look, all I did was provide an idea and then I surrounded myself with some very wise people. I went home with the plaque, but please know: this award was entirely about Dick Gabriel and Jason Epperson.“
This combination of Mills, Gabriel and Epperson created a very special and memorable look at the 1996 Championship season. From the opening moments of the film which shows the team arriving in Miami for their reunion while music with a definitive Miami-feel to it played in the background, you knew this was going to be fun. And that was the point according to Mills. “This was supposed to be a celebration. We chose not to have a narrator, but rather let the story itself move the story along.”
So what’s next? Work is already underway for a new documentary, this time about the 1998 Championship team. Cameron was guarded when asked for details, but he did offer a small tease when he said, “Dick came up with a great, innovative idea that I love and I can’t wait to see it.”
If it’s even half as good as “The Team”, then I can’t wait, either.
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