MANSFIELD — He is one of the best athletes to come out of Mansfield Senior in the past 25 years, in football and basketball.
His .767 winning percentage as Senior High’s boys basketball coach ranks second only to the legendary Gregg Collins among coaches with more than one year of service.
But Effie James is a lot more than a former athlete and coach. Now he can add documentarian to an already lengthy résumé.
James’ first foray into film making, TY for Tygers: A Story of Life, Community & Basketball, will debut at 5 p.m. Saturday in the Mansfield Senior auditorium after the Tygers host Sandusky. The project is three-plus years in the making.
“It has been an unbelievable journey,” said James, who co-hosts the West Fourth & Goal podcast. “When I first thought about doing this, it was 2015. I thought I would do a short I could put on Facebook … but the more I got into it and the more I talked to people, as with most projects that I’ve been involved in, they tend to grow.
"Before I knew it, this little thing I wanted to do became a documentary.”
The movie chronicles the 1984-85 Mansfield Senior boys basketball team. That year the Joe Pratts-coached Tygers reached the Class AAA state championship game before falling to Cincinnati Purcell Marian.
“The foundation of it is based on the ’84-’85 Senior High team that went to state, but it talks a lot about the community and what basketball means to this community,” James said. “There are so many angles to the story of Mansfield in the ’80s. Basketball is just a part of it.”
James sifted through hours of interviews to pare the film down to about 90 minutes. The director’s cut, he said, could be much longer.
“I feel some kind of way because so many people gave so much great information,” James said. “The hardest part for me has been cutting this down. If I showed all the raw material, it could be a seven-part series.”
Locating archival video footage also proved to be more difficult than expected.
“You would think the 1980s were 100 years ago,” James joked. “I think we’re spoiled today because everything is on video. When you go back to the mid-’80s it is very, very tough to find video.
“The visual story was a challenge. It took some work, but I think we’re on the good end of it.”
For James, telling the story of the 1984-85 Tygers — and his hometown — was a labor of love.
“Mansfield is a unique place,” he said. “It makes me proud to be a Mansfielder and even more proud that I was able to complete a project like this.”
James also wrote and directed a play in 2016.
Are there any more documentary films in his future?
"I'm a person who listens to what God tells me to do. I have not always been, but here recently there's been motivations that come to me," James said. "As a coach I didn't like being put in a box. Because of that, that's why I put my hand into play-writing and now doing a project that became a documentary.
"That's just who I am becoming and I no long want to be afraid, and I don't want my children to be afraid, to do what it is they desire to do or try."