Basketball is a focal point for the lives of the young men that Ken Carter coaches. The film shows that the academic infrastructure around the boys has faltered. Those in the position of academic power have relinquished their responsibility to the boys. Instead, these individuals, such as the school principal, is simply hoping for basketball to be "a way out" for these young men. The reality is that basketball is a diversion point for both the boys and those around them who fail to live up to their obligations in helping them.
It is in this realm where Coach Carter becomes a transformational figure, seeking to teach the boys that basketball can be a large part fo their lives, but it secondary to the role of academics. Through Coach Carter's demands that the boys uphold a 2.3 Grade Point Average and show respect to the academic figures in their lives, he becomes a figure that seeks to expand the worlds of his athletes. He stresses to them that while basketball holds sway over their lives, it is secondary to the role that academics should play.