FYFFE — Young girls at Fyffe grew up dreaming of playing basketball like Heather Mayes Powell during her legendary six-year career for the Red Devils from 1989-95, a career that featured 4,149 points and three Class 2A state championships. She earned Alabama’s Miss Basketball in 1995.
Beginning with the 2020-21 season, Fyffe girls can dream of growing up and playing for Powell, as she’s returned home to become the new varsity girls coach. The DeKalb County Board of Education approved Powell’s hiring during its May 12 meeting. She will teach health and physical education.
She comes to her alma mater after spending one season as varsity girls coach at Guntersville.
Powell thanked the Fyffe community for welcoming her and her family home with open arms. She’s been humbled by the outpouring of love and kindness from Fyffe alumni and fans.
“Anybody that played here that has thought about coaching, I think at some point we’ve all thought maybe one day we might be back,” Powell said. “We do live in the surrounding community and go to church here, so it does feel like home.
“I was [varsity girls coach] at Plainview about 14 years and met my husband [Luke] there, that’s where he was from, and our kids went there and we were very comfortable there. I’ve always had a little compartment in my heart for the Fyffe people and the community and just a love for them. Always wanted Fyffe to do well in anything, or everything. Even though we weren’t here at the time, we still supported them and loved the people.”
Powell succeeds Steve King, who retired from teaching and coaching after spending the final four seasons of his career at Fyffe.
He guided the Lady Red Devils to a 105-22 record, four area championships and a runner-up finish in the Class 2A State Tournament in 2019.
Powell served as an assistant coach for Fyffe’s 2018-19 team.
“Coach King invited us onto the staff and everybody was open arms, and a lot of love was shown to our family during that time,” Powell said. “It was very difficult to leave to go to Guntersville, but that was a wonderful opportunity for our family as well.
“The dream [to be Fyffe’s head coach] had been there in the past. I didn’t know if that was God’s plan or if He was going to open that door back up for me to be here, but He has, and I’m just super grateful and thankful for the opportunity to come back.”
Playing for Coach Cochran
Powell played for legendary coach Mike Cochran at Fyffe. Cochran, a 1979 Fyffe graduate, guided the Lady Red Devils to a 627-226 record, seven state championships, 14 area championships and 16 DeKalb County titles.
Cochran’s teams were noted for their relentless full-court defensive pressure that overwhelmed opponents. His teams enjoyed offensive success with an up-tempo style or attacking from a half-court scheme.
“Coach Cochran, I can’t say enough about him, the way I feel about him as a coach and as a mentor,” Powell said. “I had that with volleyball and softball. I had wonderful coaches, wonderful teammates. It was a fairy tale kind of an upbringing through the sports world and at school here at Fyffe.
“I think playing for Coach Cochran did give us a love for that run-and-gun kind of mentality. It’s fun to watch for sure, and it’s fun to play that style when you’re up in somebody’s face and really putting the pressure on defensively.
“I do think you have to tailor it based on your team. From the athletes I know here, I think they’ll be able to do that.”
Fyffe lost twin sisters Maggie and Marie Woodall to graduation. The girls signed with Gadsden State.
Gracie Hicks reclassified from the class of 2021 to the class of 2020 and graduated early.
“We did have a couple of seniors that graduated, and one junior who flew through her course work and did a great job and wanted to go on to college, so she graduated early,” Powell said. “We had one who moved to a different school.
“It will be a little bit of a piece-it-back situation, but I think there’s a really great core. These kids are used to working hard. Coach King did a great job really instilling that work ethic in them and just playing hard. He’s a defensive coach. He loves for his kids to play defense.
“The fundamentals you want, I feel like that’s established because of Coach King and Coach Cochran, the coaches before that.
“They’re athletic, they are quick and I can see them being a lot of fun to coach and a lot of fun to watch.”
Powell said players who were in the program during the 2018-19 season know her as an assistant coach but not as the head coach, and it’s a different role.
“Coach King and I agree and do some things exactly the same or very similar, and I have the utmost respect for him,” she said. “But there’ll be changes, just things that I do that maybe he didn’t, or something that’s a little new or maybe I call something different.
“It will be a growing process. I do hope it will be a quick one, and I think it will just because they do have a little bit of an understanding of who I am and what I believe. I think it’s going to be a great fit, and I’m excited to get back in the gym with those girls and to have my daughter [Hadlee] coming up into seventh grade.”
Powell enjoyed her season at Guntersville and believes the program made progress under her leadership. She expressed appreciation to her players, team parents, administrators, the booster club and Jonathan Hyde for the support they gave her.
Powell said Hyde always accommodated her team if it needed to practice at Supreme Courts, the facility he owns in Guntersville.
“It’s a tradition-rich school, and it’s a very talent-rich school right now,” Powell said. “I think the hopes for them and the future of the program at Guntersville are super high. They have some wonderful athletes coming back, and some that are coming up from the lower grades. I really do expect them to blow this thing out over the next few years and be in contention for some big stuff in postseason.
“I appreciated the opportunity to be there. I do think God opened that up for our family, for whatever reason. We got to be there a while. It was just a very difficult decision to leave.
“I came to love so many people there and my players there. It was hard and we prayed, and like I told them, we cried and we didn’t sleep. We really kind of just put ourselves through the ringer over whether we thought it was God’s plan for us as a family to try to stay there or try to come here. In the end, we just felt like this was what we were supposed to do.
“The people there have been super gracious and very kind about that decision. They said we know home is calling and we understand. I left with a good feeling about our experience there and really blessed to have gotten to be there for a year, and really know those people and hopefully have some sort of an impact on lives there.
“I know they had an impact on our lives and our family, and I appreciate them and I thank them and wish them the best of luck. I told them I would try to keep up with them. Text or call anytime and let me know the awesome things they’re doing. I hope to stay linked with them and get to see them do great things too.”