One day after the state athletic association handed out the trophies that proved just beyond his team’s reach, John Valore resigned as Camden High School’s basketball coach.
Valore on Monday night confirmed that he had stepped down as the coach of South Jersey’s most fabled program after five seasons marked by success in the regular season as well as the early stages of the state tournament but the inability to capture the Panthers’ elusive 12th state title.
“I have no regrets,” Valore said. “I was blessed to coach such a stellar program and coach so many fine athletes.
“I had great support from the athletic director, the administration. I wish them well.”
Valore’s teams went 118-36 in five seasons. His first four teams won South Jersey Group 2 titles as well as state semifinals but lost in the state finals.
This season, the Panthers were regarded as the favorite to win the Group 2 state crown but lost to Haddonfield, 54-53, in overtime in the South Jersey Group 2 semifinals.
On Sunday, Haddonfield won the state Group 2 crown, beating Newark Central, 62-45, at Rutgers.
“We just couldn’t finish,” Valore said. “We made the state finals four years in a row and couldn’t finish. This year, we had a great opportunity but we couldn’t finish.”
Valore said he was asked to resign by Camden athletic director Mark Phillips during a meeting on Monday.
“I love Mark, he’s the best,” Valore said. “They felt it was time for a change and I’m in total agreement with that. It’s time for somebody else to take over and maybe they can get them to the goal that they want, which is the state championship.”
Valore said he likely would surface as an assistant coach at another program next season. In the meantime, he said he planned to spend his time watching lacrosse teams coached by his son J.C. at St. Augustine Prep and his daughter Jen at Our Lady of Mercy Academy.
“I told my son there’s good news and bad news,” Valore said. “The good news is I’ll be at every game. The bad news is I’ll be at every practice.”
Valore, 73, was the coach at Cherry Hill East for 35 years. The basketball court at the school is named after him.
It was considered a surprise when he was named Camden’s coach in the spring of 2013, given the rivalry between the Panthers and the Cougars during his time at Cherry Hill East.
Valore often joked during his time as Camden’s coach that some former players and members of the community always would be uncomfortable with him as the coach of the beloved program.
Valore said Monday night that “people in the community wanted a change.”
The next Camden coach will be tasked with trying to capture the program’s 12th state title. Camden has lost in its last eight appearances in the state finals, in 2001, 2005, 2009, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.
Valore said he was proud to have coached South Jersey’s most accomplished program. Camden has won more state titles (11) and South Jersey titles (47) than any other program.
“It was a wonderful opportunity and experience for me,” Valore said. “We didn’t get the job done. We didn’t win in those state finals and this year we didn’t get past Haddonfield.
“But my five years were great. It was a great experience. They were such great kids to coach, all the way from my first group to this last group that I had.”