East Basketball Court to be Named For Coach Sam Powell

East High School will dedicate their basketball court to celebrated mentor and longtime coach Sam Powell on Saturday, May 6 at 1:00 p.m. in the school’s main gymnasium. A program will include remarks by State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad, Des Moines School Board member Dwana Bradley, and feature some of Powell’s former players.

Powell coached girls basketball at East High School for 15 years, from 2014-2019, leading the EHS Scarlets to five State tournament appearances including a championship in 2011. He was the first African American coach to win an Iowa statewide championship. In addition, Powell led the team to 13 Metro conference titles, three years undefeated, and a state runner-up place in 2010. Powell had an overall record of 253-88. He is a 7-time Conference Coach of the Year winner.

His success did not begin or end at the gymnasium door. As Powell’s daughter noted in a letter to the DMPS School Board, Powell’s players were not only powerhouses on the court but excelled academically.

“While it is noteworthy to mention all the success my father and his players had on the court,” said Samisha Powell. “I sincerely believe the best part of their Cinderella story comes from their accomplishments off the court. The basketball program that Sam Powell cultivated at East High School was a culture of excellence, leadership, scholastic achievement, and opportunity.”

Powell earned the respect of his players, family and his fellow coaches for a career-long dedication to students not just as athletes, but as people.

“The respect that I have for Coach Powell goes far beyond just his wins and losses,” said fellow East coach and longtime friend Bob Ligouri. “It centers on his values, his genuine love of his community, and desire to make a positive impact on the lives of his students.”

The Des Moines School Board unanimously approved the naming of the East High School gymnasium basketball court to Sam L. Powell Court, following the submission of a naming committee report, during their regular meeting on Nov. 1, 2022.