As one of the best point guards in Camden basketball history, Vic Carstarphen played a game built on making things better for his teammates.

Carstarphen said he’s taken the same approach to life.

“I’ve always been a person of service,” Carstarphen said. “Even as a point guard, that’s what I was all about.”

Carstarphen said his decision Wednesday to resign as Camden boys’ basketball coach after one season was in keeping with that philosophy.

Carstarphen, 49, said he plans to focus on his coming run for a seat on Camden’s city council.

“At the end of the day, it’s all about the kids,” Carstarphen said. “If I’m going to serve in City Council, I can’t give 100 percent to these kids. Not as a head coach. And that wouldn’t be fair.”

Camden athletic director Mark Phillips was not available Wednesday to comment on Carstarphen’s resignation or the search for a new coach of perhaps South Jersey’s most fabled program.

Sources close to the Camden program have indicated that former NBA player and assistant coach Rick Brunson, who lives in Cherry Hill, has emerged as a possible candidate to become the Panthers’ next coach.

Brunson played at Temple with Carstarphen in the early 1990s. Brunson’s son Jalen plays for the Dallas Mavericks after helping Villanova win two national titles.

Carstarphen said he would like to stay connected to the Camden program, perhaps as an assistant coach.

“That will depend on how things play out with the new head coach, but that’s something I would love to do, to still mentor these kids,” Carstarphen said. “That’s something I’ve done my entire life, helping kids in this city. I want to continue to do that.”

Camden went 17-10 in Carstarphen’s lone season as head coach. The Panthers lost, 69-67, in overtime to eventual state champion Haddonfield in the South Jersey Group 2 title game March 4 before a capacity crowd at Cherry Hill East.

“It was a great experience, a dream come true,” Carstarphen said of serving as head coach. “You’re not a head coach until you become a head coach. It taught me a lot.

“I saw growth. I know we had some ups and downs, but I saw growth and I was excited about the team and I’m excited where they can go in the future.”

Camden was 17-10 and reached the South Jersey Group 2 final in one season under former star player Vic Carstarphen.
Camden was 17-10 and reached the South Jersey Group 2 final in one season under former star player Vic Carstarphen.

Camden’s next coach will inherit a team that likely will return several key players, such as current junior Lance Ware as well as sophomores Jerome Brewer and Taquan Woodley.

The Panthers project as the team to beat in South Jersey Group 2 next season and as a strong state-title contender as well.

Carstarphen will run for City Council in November. He is running for a seat in the city’s Second Ward, which includes the Parkside, Whitman Park, and Centerville sections.

On March 28, the Camden City Democratic Committee announced its endorsement of Carstarphen, which all but assures his victory in the Democratic-heavy community.

“We couldn’t be more pleased to support Coach Vic Carstarphen for City Council,” Camden mayor Frank Moran said in a statement at the time.

Carstarphen was a star player for Camden during the program’s glory days in the mid-1980s. As a quintessential city point guard with the ability to score, distribute and defend, Carstarphen led Camden to Group 4 state titles in 1986 and 1987.

Carstarphen was a top college player at Temple, sparking the Owls to the Elite 8 of the NCAA Tournament in 1991.

Vic Carstarphen (right) spent the previous five seasons as an assistant coach to former Camden head coach John Valore (left).
Elizabeth Robertson/Staff photographer
Vic Carstarphen (right) spent the previous five seasons as an assistant coach to former Camden head coach John Valore (left).

Before becoming head coach last season, Carstarphen served five seasons as an assistant to John Valore, whose teams won South Jersey Group 2 titles and advanced to the state finals in 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017.

“This is a great opportunity, but it will come with great responsibility," Carstarphen said of serving on city council. "All the success I’ve had in my life, I owe to this city. This is an opportunity for me to pay that back.”