Synopsis by Hal Erickson
In the Emmy-winning debut episode of The White Shadow, Chicago Bulls forward Ken Reeves (Ken Howard), forced to retire after a series of injuries, bypasses the offers of several more prestigious jobs, accepting instead an invitation from college buddy Jim Willis (played by Jason Bernard in the opener, Ed Bernard thereafter) to coach the mediocre basketball team at Carver High, the inner-city-LA high school where Willis is principal. Reeves is hardly welcomed with open arms by taciturn vice principal Sybil Buchanan (Joan Pringle), nor does he immediately win over the largely black student body. He does, however, have better luck bonding with his team members, beginning with James Hayward (Thomas Carter), whom Ken talks out of quitting school. As the team begins to win games under Reeves' tough-but-fair tutelage, the kids come to both respect and revere "The White Shadow." All the while, however, Ken's sister Katie (Robin Rose) and brother-in-law Bill (Jerry Fogel) nag him to stop trying to save the world and take a safer, more secure, and better-paying job at one of the suburbans schools. A subsequent episode finds Reeves having a showdown with player Curtis Jackson (Eric Kilpatrick) when he finds a liquor bottle in Curtis' locker. Another player, Milton Reese (Nathan Cook) may have to give up both the team and a scholarship when his girlfriend turns up pregnant. Briefly dropped from the team, Ricky "Go Go" Gomez (Ira Angustain) rejoins his old street gang. Player Abner Goldstein (Ken Michelman) undergoes a crisis of faith when his teammates seem indifferent to his grandmother's illness. And in a basically serious episode with comic undertones, the team decides to form a singing group--excluding the sensitive Morris Thorpe (Kevin Hooks), whose ear-piercing rendition of "My Girl" must be heard to be disbelieved. The problems tackled in the first season of The White Shadow go beyond the regular characters: A talented transfer student faces persecution because he is rumored to be homosexual; a hot college prospect turns out to be illiterate, a product of the "slide 'em through and no one will notice" school of athletic promotion; and while subbing for another teacher, Reeves finally comes to grips with the fact that not every troubled student is capable of being "saved"--especially after one such student tries to rape Ms. Buchanan.