November 27, 1978: The White Shadow debuts on CBS
The White Shadow was one of my favorite shows growing up. I have the first season (15 episodes) on DVD.
In the pilot episode, longtime Chicago Bulls player Ken Reeves — played by 6-foot-6 Long Island product Ken Howard — suffers a career-ending knee injury. Howard, who is white, accepts an offer from his former Boston College teammate turned principal to coach at Carver High School, a predominantly black inner-city high school.
The White Shadow became the first television ensemble drama to feature a mostly African American cast.
The show ran just 54 episodes but was nominated for an Emmy for Best Drama Series twice during its three-year run. It was a show ahead of its time, boldly going where many shows were unwilling to go in the 70's.....storylines dealt with drugs, alcohol, teen pregnancy, gambling, prostitution, domestic violence.
Ken Howard: Coach Ken Reeves
Thomas Carter: James “Hollywood” Hayward
Timothy Van Patten: Mario “Salami” Pettrino
Kevin Hooks: Morris Thorpe
Byron Stewart: Warren Coolidge:
Ken Michelman: Abner Goldstein
Erik Kilpatrick: Curtis “CJ” Jackson
Ira Angustain: Ricky “Go-Go” Gomez
Nathan Cook: Milton Reese
Cameos on “The White Shadow” included the likes of Mickey Mantle, The Harlem Globetrotters, Red Auerbach, Bill Russell and Elgin Baylor.
The New York Post had an excellent read on the show and an update on cast members:
Long before a recent generation of sports fans enjoyed and devoured “Friday Night Lights,” viewers were introduced each week to Coach Reeves and Ms. Buchanan, Coolidge and Salami, Thorpe and Hayward, Go-Go and Goldstein, and the myriad problems they and their families encountered with drugs and teen pregnancy and domestic violence and countless other issues involving their personal lives in inner-city LA.
The Post caught up with several stars and family members associated with “The White Shadow” — which ran on CBS for just three seasons from 1978 to 1981 — to discuss the critically acclaimed, but short-lived, show’s impact ahead of its 40th anniversary this week.