Dru Powell wasn’t fleeing a difficult situation when he accepted the position as the Thompson High boys’ basketball head coach. In fact, Powell had built Spanish Fort High into one of the most consistent boys’ basketball programs in the state.
There was something, or perhaps more accurately, several things, that made the decision easy to make the move to Alabaster.
“The biggest things, probably, that drew me here were the administration, from Dr. Vickers to Dr. Hester to Coach Freeman to Coach Pitts,” Powell said. “I’m sold on those guys. I know what type of people they are, what kind of leaders they are. Then, obviously, the facilities are second to none in our state. The opportunity to be able to be a part of that was special. Thirdly, and probably most important, was to listen to the people talk about the quality of players and quality of people who are in Alabaster. That’s one thing that really got me excited.”
Powell, who earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of Alabama, began crafting his coaching career as a graduate assistant coach under Mark Gottfried at his alma mater during the 2008-09 season.
“It’s obviously a very tremendous part of my life in terms of becoming a coach,” Powell said. “To have the opportunity to sit in on daily staff meetings and to be involved in literally every facet of the program, was very educational for me. It’s something that I cherish. It’s just a great opportunity, that I think I took advantage of.”
His first high school head coaching job came at Gulf Shores High School, where he led his team to an area championship in 2009-2010.
In 2011, Powell became the head coach at Spanish Fort. Over the next seven seasons, he compiled a 153-65 record and built the program to one of the best Class 6A programs. He led the Toros into the Final Four for the first time in school history in 2016-17 and an Elite 8 appearance in 2014-15, when they won a school record 26 games. The Toros were area champions four times and he was selected the Baldwin County Coach of the Year four times.
This past season, Spanish Fort won 14 consecutive games, on its way to a 21-10 record.
Obviously, Powell has grown with each step on his coaching career. But, it wasn’t an on-the-court moment that was the largest step in his maturation as a coach.
“After having our first child, kind of changes your perspective on coaching, the way that you coach and treat kids and love on kids, discipline kids,” said Powell, who along with his wife, Jenilee, has two boys and a girl. “I think I became a better coach, to be honest with you, the day after my oldest son was born. It just kind of puts into perspective what we’re here to do. I think that’s had a big impact.”
Powell inherits a varsity team that returns nearly intact after taking, what he termed, “some bumps” this past season. Powell added he’ll “get in here and see what we’ve got” and is “excited about the opportunity for growth in the program.”
He also looks forward to connecting the present and future with the past.
“Thompson has a good basketball history,” Powell said. “They won two state championships (in 1976 and 1977), probably not a lot of people know that. I know the quality of basketball that is played in the Birmingham area is second to none, really in the Southeast. The quality of coaches, as well as players, is something that is very special, something I feel fortunate to be a part of.”