Joey Rowell knew that Skyline High School had a reputation for fielding strong basketball teams.
But it wasn’t until the Geraldine native began teaching and coaching there last year that he fully understood how Skyline earned that reputation.
“The kids, the coaches, the community, they love the game,” Rowell said. “These kids are always wanting in the gym to work on their game.”
Rowell will now work to do his part in that tradition after being hired as Skyline’s varsity boys basketball head coach during last week’s Jackson County Board of Education meeting.
Rowell takes over for T.J. Perry, who resigned in April to accept a job on the Mountain Brook coaching staff.
Rowell is a 1995 Geraldine High School graduate. He worked in the private sector until starting his career in education and coaching in 2008. He coached Geraldine’s junior high boys basketball team for two seasons and was the junior varsity boys head coach for seven seasons from 2011-17, leading the Bulldogs to four DeKalb County and Sand Mountain Tournament junior varsity championships. He then served as Geraldine’s head coach for three seasons from 2018-20, leading the Bulldogs to one area championship, one Class 3A Northeast Regional appearance and two sub-regional appearances.
Rowell came to Skyline prior the 2020-21 school year and coached the school’s junior high and junior varsity boys basketball teams last season while also serving as Skyline’s head baseball coach. Rowell will continue to coach junior high and junior boys basketball teams and the Vikings’ varsity baseball team. He thanked Jackson County Schools superintendent Kevin Dukes, the school board and Skyline High School administrators principal Drew McNutt and assistant principal Tara McGill “for giving me this opportunity.”
“(Skyline) is a great place to be,” Rowell said. “They’ve welcomed me as well as my family with open arms. It’s a unique place. I feel blessed to be here.”
Rowell’s son Jamison became Skyline’s first track and field signee last spring, signing with the University of Montevallo. He posted numerous top-five and top-10 finishes at the AHSAA indoor and outdoor state meets, including two silver medals in the Class 1A-3A Boys triple jump and 60-meter hurdles during the indoor state meet. Meanwhile, Rowell’s daughter Gracie, an ASWA second-team all-state selection as a freshman, played a key role in helping Skyline win the 2020-21 Class 1A Girls state basketball championship.
Rowell said being around the Skyline players and coaching some of them last year has made for a smooth transition this summer. The Vikings, who return two starters in Logan Evans and second-team all-state center Weston Avans and key reserve Chase Bickers from last season, have played a number of play dates thus far this summer.
“We’ve meshed really well,” Rowell said. “This kids, they’re great. They’re great at basketball, they’re really all coachable and smart, great in the classroom. We’ve had a pretty good summer. We’ve played a bunch just trying to get the new guys some varsity experience.”
Skyline principal Drew McNutt said Rowell was an ideal fit for the program.
“Coach Rowell brings in head-coaching experience that will benefit our student-athletes,” McNutt said. “He knows the game of basketball and has already shown this summer that we can play at a high level. The rich tradition of (Skyline boys) basketball is in good hands under his guidance.”
Rowell takes over a program that went 22-9 last season, won its 12th straight varsity boys area tournament championship (the state’s longest current area tournament title winning streak) and reached the Northeast Regional for the fourth straight season and a Jackson County leading 17th time overall despite having only one returning varsity player back from the prior season.
“The (sustained) success shows how much the kids work. I thank coach Perry and coach McCarver for the excellent job that they have done with the program,” Rowell said. “The tradition is great. We’re going to keep that bar high.”