When he considers his career a decade or more from now, Cocoa High boys basketball coach James Rowe will see the young faces and what they’ve become.
“I think the one thing I’m going to look back at are all the successful kids that have come through the program,” he said Monday, referencing former players who’ve become teachers, doctors and even coaches.
Rowe, now 56, closed out his head coaching career on Tuesday in the District 7-5A tournament. He took over for the 1996-97 season but has decided to turn his job over to someone younger.
When he was younger himself, coaching wasn’t the career plan for the former Cocoa player. Rowe worked for McDonnell-Douglas for a dozen years, but an invitation to coach the junior varsity Tigers altered his path.
But not until he prayed about it. Rowe’s standards kept him on a predetermined course.
“I set out with the goal of just to do things the right way, with class and respect,” he said. “I thought if we did that, winning would take care of itself.”
Check the box for class. It showed through, even to rivals.
“He’s always been a class act, win or lose,” Rockledge coach Logan Keith said. “He went about things the right way, and I could see that former players had a world of respect for him.”
Check the winning box, too. Rowe entered the season with more than 440 victories. His varsity teams won six district titles and a state championship, in 2009.
It’s unlikely Rowe ever had to flex his coaching muscles more than he did in that state final. His Tigers trailed unbeaten Springstead at halftime before starting the second half with a press that turned the game around. They won in comeback fashion, 75-60, ending the season with a 30-3 season record.
As his own coaching career winds down, his sons, James III and David, have their coaching careers on solid footing. James is an assistant coach for the Washington Redskins, and David at Valdosta State in Georgia.