By Jeffery Armstrong
Riverdale High girls head basketball coach Derick Powell has a new job and he won't have to travel too far to go to work. In fact, Powell can keep his own office.
Powell was recently named the new Riverdale boys head basketball coach, taking over for David Boyd, who resigned earlier this year. Riverdale athletic director Jarrod Davis said he wanted to hire someone with a wealth of experience and a knowledge of the game and he couldn't go wrong in selecting Powell, who in four years has taken the Riverdale girls team to two state Elite 8 appearances and to the 2003 state Final Four. Powell was also named the 2003 News-Daily All-Southern Crescent girls basketball coach of the year.
"Coach Powell is someone who will stress good guard play and I believe he will instill a lot better game discipline for our boys team," Davis said. "He's done a great job with our girls and I'm real excited about next year's boys team. I know he will do an outstanding job."
Powell, who has been coaching for six years, said he is excited about his new position as head boys basketball coach, which is the fulfillment of a dream for him. Before coming to Riverdale, Powell was an assistant boys basketball coach at Ouachita High School in Monroe, La.
"I've always had a desire to become a boys head basketball coach. It was actually hard to sit around after the girls games and watch the boys play, knowing I wanted to be out there," he said. "This is another step in my life's journey."
Taking that step was a very agonizing decision for Powell to make. He had to choose between coaching a talented girls team which will feature rising senior Sasha Simmons and rising sophomores Neicey Lewis and Laura Broomfield or pursuing his dream of being a boys head coach. When the boys position was first posted, he worried about his decision the first week.
"This was a very, very tough decision for me. I talked it over with my wife for days," Powell said. "I even woke up around 3 a.m. most mornings wondering if I made the right move. I've become so attached to the girls team."
Powell didn't tell the entire girls team about his move until March 22, after the school's basketball banquet. He said the girls took the news pretty well, but delivering the news wasn't easy for him.
"I was the one who became emotional after telling them my plans," he said. "They reacted better than I did. I said to them that as much as I tell them to strive for their goals, it was necessary for me to strive for mine."
Powell, who played college basketball at North Carolina A&T, can now focus on taking the boys basketball team back to the state playoffs, after missing out this season. Powell looks forward to building a great team around a nucleus of rising juniors, including 6-foot-9 center Gani Lawal, a 2005 All-Southern Crescent first-team selection.
"We have a great chance for success when you can build around a kid as talented as Gani is. This junior class coming up will be a very nice group of players," Powell said.
Powell met with the players Thursday to go over goals and objectives for the summer, including weight training schedules and AAU basketball play. He said he has some ideas on what the team needs to do to qualify for state next year.
"We've definitely got to get stronger and be a more physical team. We also need to be better decision makers on the court," he said. "If we do those things, we'll be all right. I'm excited about next year."