By Luke Strickland – Clayton Daily News
Longtime coach Derick Powell returned to the Riverdale High boys basketball program last season as head coach. The Raiders advanced to the state playoffs for the first time since 2014 this year, making it all the way to the Sweet 16.
Powell took over a program two years ago that had only won six games. The Raiders have improved their win total to 10 during the 2015-16 and 12 this year. He did so with a team with just two All-Region selections.
The Clayton News is pleased to announce Powell as the 2016-17 Boys Basketball Coach of the Year.
The Clayton News sat down with Powell for a Q&A session.
Clayton News: What are your thoughts on the season as a whole?
Derick Powell: I am very proud of the season that we had. Preseason polls predicted us to finish near the bottom of the region, however we finished as the third-place team in a very good region. We advanced to the second round of the state playoffs by winning on the road which is always tough to accomplish. I was extremely proud of the five seniors that led the way for us this year, playing a tremendous amount of minutes and we were the smaller team on the floor most nights. I think we overachieved all season and I was just pleased with the way each kid gave it his all every night.
CN: What was your favorite game/moment of the season?
DP: The region tournament game that qualified us for the state playoffs against Whitewater. There was a lot of pressure because that game determined if our season ended or if we would advance to the semifinals and got a birth to the state playoffs. We did not respond well to the pressure, we only scored 22 points in three quarters and found ourselves down by 18 points going into the fourth quarter. We outscored them 25-1 in the fourth quarter and went into the playoffs as the third seed and advanced to the round of 16. I had never seen my guys fight and play so hard together. It was one of the most rewarding feelings to experience as a coach.
CN: What was the turning point of the season in your opinion?
DP: I think we began to come together as a team during Christmas break. We played in the Woodland Christmas Tournament. With no school and plenty of practice time, the guys were able to come together and win three games to go undefeated in the tournament. It gave us some much needed confidence heading into the second and most important part of the season.
CN: What did the season mean to you personally?
DP: Personally, this season reignited my passion for this game. Last year as I returned, I had mixed emotions from being away and starting with new kids. I struggled with balancing my personal time with coaching and supporting my daughter who plays high school varsity basketball as well. This season, there was more clarity in my priorities and I think it translated into more success for our team and a stronger desire to establish and maintain a highly competitive program.
CN: What’s next for the program?
DP: Next for “The Dale” is to build upon this season’s success with a good summer program for the returning players to take steps next year to become one of the top-tier programs in metro Atlanta. We want to compete for region championships in the coming seasons and take the next step in the playoffs to secure a spot in the Final Four and compete for a state championship.