CAMDEN, NJ — Former NBA player and coach Rick Brunson has officially been named the new head coach for the Camden High School boys’ basketball team.
Brunson, 47, brings with him nearly two decades of experience in professional basketball, as well as the mentoring background demanded of a coach of young athletes.
He takes over for Victor Carstarphen, a former college teammate at Temple University. Carstarphen stepped down after one season at the helm to pursue a run for Camden City Council 2nd Ward.
Camden High finished last season with a 17-10 record. In its history, the basketball team has won 11 state titles.
“We are extremely excited to welcome Rick to our family in the Camden School District, and to bring his expertise and passion for the game of basketball to our students and players,” said Athletic Director Mark Phillips in a statement. “Rick is a talented, highly-dedicated coach who is committed to shaping these players into leaders both on the court and off. The knowledge and experience he brings with him will make him an invaluable resource for the Panthers.”
Brunson played nine seasons in the NBA after going undrafted in 1995. He saw action with eight different teams during a career that began in 1997: the Portland Trail Blazers, New York Knicks, Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Toronto Raptors, Los Angeles Clippers, Seattle SuperSonics, and Houston Rockets. The Syracuse, New York native was a member of the Knicks’ 1999 Eastern Conference champions.
From his final season in 2006, Brunson transitioned to coaching and found a spot on the bench of four NBA teams over the next decade. He was an assistant for the Denver Nuggets (2007), Chicago Bulls (2010-12), Charlotte Bobcats (2012-13), and Minnesota Timberwolves (2016-18), a position from which he resigned in May 2018 amid allegations of harassment of several women, according to an ESPN report.
Between his pro coaching stints, Brunson spent a season in 2009 as an assistant men's basketball coach at the University of Hartford. He had served as director of basketball operations at the University of Virginia for two years prior.
A former McDonald's All-American at Salem High School in Massachusetts, Brunson came to the Delaware Valley in 1991 by way of attending Temple, where he was a four-year player.
His son, Jalen, is a local star in his own right, having helped lead Villanova University to two national championship titles. He currently plays for the Dallas Mavericks.
“After an extensive search, interview, and thorough vetting including a comprehensive background check, Rick scored the highest of all of the candidates for the job,” Phillips said. “We look forward to having him join our team and become part of the storied history of Camden High School Basketball.”
Brunson, who currently lives with his family in Cherry Hill, was acquitted of attempted sexual assault and related charges in 2015. The case stemmed from a June 2014 arrest that followed an encounter two months earlier with a massage therapist outside Chicago. A judge in Illinois ruled that the burden of proof was not met against Brunson, who testified that the incident was consensual and part of an extramarital relationship.
In the time that followed, Brunson told the Chicago Tribune in an interview that "I want to move forward. I just want to clear my name. I'm not an angel. But I'm damn sure not a criminal."