Tales of the H-T: blog posts taken from or inspired by The Herald-Times archive at the Monroe
County History Center. Blog post by Rod Spaw
Three of the most successful college basketball coaches in the nation got together in Bloomington for a few days in early 1996, but the purpose was only indirectly related to the game that had made them famous.
Their mission was to sell tacos.
Readers of The Herald-Times found out about it on January 18 in a front-page story by staff writer Lisa Sorg. The accompanying photo by Juliette Coughlin was almost surreal: Seated in the living room of a real home in Bloomington were IU coach Bob Knight and Georgetown coach John Thompson. Standing behind them in a white kitchen apron was University of Kentucky coach Rick Pitino.
At the time, the three coaches had, between them, a total of four national championships and 10 Final Four appearances in the men’s Division 1 NCAA basketball tournament, Pitino was the only one of the three who had
yet to win a championship ring; he would rectify that in the 1996 tournament just two months later.
The week before, the H-T reported, a scout team for companies working on a commercial for Taco Bell had stopped at a home on First Street to take some pictures and ask about its availability for the shoot. A deal was struck, and crews soon arrived to transform the living room into a film set. Filming also took place that week at other locations in Bloomington, including Assembly Hall, the Indiana Memorial Union and the IU library. A professional actor from Los Angeles portrayed the recruit in what was a relatively straightforward setup:
The three coaches are visiting a prized recruit in Bloomington. Along with a great education, Thompson tells the athlete he can have “all the crunchy tacos you can eat” if he signs with his school. Knight counters with an equivalent offer of “soft tacos.” As those two go back and forth, Pitino appears with a tray of “double-decker tacos,” which hooks the recruit into Kentucky’s camp.
The last scene shows Pitino standing on the porch of the home with the recruit and his family, waving a Taco Bell bag at his departing rivals. “Some for the road?” Pitino yells.
The Bloomington homeowner told the H-T that the novelty of having a national TV commercial shot in his residence had pretty much worn off in the four days it took to produce.
“Yes, yes, yes, I want my house back,” he told the newspaper. “This has been an inconvenience but not quite a nightmare.”
- A “behind the scenes” video about the making of the Taco Bell
commercial can be viewed on YouTube at
- See the commercial as it aired nationally at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vtYze2KYCY.