When Jerry Bembry took his daughter Ashley Bembry-Kaintuck to work in the 1990s, the veteran sports journalist could not have imagined he was laying the foundation that would lead to a father and daughter teaming as directors to helm a sports documentary.
The first project from the father-daughter duo, On & Coppin, debuts today – exclusively on ESPN+ – as part of the critically acclaimed “Black History Always” collection on The Walt Disney Company sports streaming platform.
Bembry, Andscape senior writer, serves as writer-director. Bembry-Kaintuck, a producer with Andscape, is On & Coppin’s producer-director.
Bembry is a former Baltimore Sun sports reporter who in the 1990s covered the Coppin State University Eagles men’s basketball program and head coach Ron “Fang” Mitchell. Bembry reported on the challenges the Eagles and coach Mitchell faced in recruiting NCAA Division I athletes to what was a small commuter school located smack-dab in the middle of West Baltimore, Md. – a city that struggles with high crime and unemployment.
At the time, young Bembry-Kaintuck would join her dad at games and the team’s press opportunities between her school studies. After serving as an associate producer on Summer Of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), the award-winning documentary directed by Questlove, currently streaming on Hulu, Bembry-Kaintuck and her father pitched the story to Andscape.
Raina Kelley, Vice President and Editor-in-Chief, Andscape, greenlit the project: “Andscape is the ideal platform for shining a light on rarely told Black stories such as On & Coppin. This documentary is part of the visionary storytelling and original content Andscape will commission under the rebrand.”
Felicia “Snoop” Pearson, who starred in the HBO series “The Wire,” adds her authentic, native Baltimore voice to the narration.
The making of On & Coppin dates back three decades. Twenty-five years ago to this day, coach Mitchell and his Eagles became the third No. 15 seed to defeat a No. 2 in the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament. When the Eagles upset the University of South Carolina in the Big Dance, the experience stuck with the Bembrys.
Coppin State: First @MEACSports team to advance past the #MarchMadness First Round!#TBT to @coppinsports' victory over 2-seed South Carolina as a 15-seed in 1997! #BlackHistoryMonth @HBCUGameday pic.twitter.com/LQlg2Uvj2m
— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessMBB) February 25, 2021
ESPN+ Producer Luke Williams and Sharon Matthews, Andscape’s Senior Director, Original Programming, Development and Production, oversaw the project.
In the video above, Bembry and Bembry-Kaintuck discuss the making of On & Coppin.
EDITOR’S NOTE: A companion written piece about Coppin State’s historic moment by Bembry posted today on Andscape. For more stories about Black and everything, go to www.andscape.com. Below are some behind-the-scenes images capturing the making of the film.