In a stunning development that seems to foreshadow his rumored resignation as Camden’s basketball coach, Vic Carstarphen on Thursday night was endorsed by Camden City’s Democratic Committee as a candidate for city council in the Second Ward.
The announcement came as speculation swirled that Carstarphen would step down after one season as Camden’s coach.
Carstarphen, 49, a star player at Camden in the mid-1980s, led the Panthers to a 17-10 record this past season.
His decision to run for political office for the first time in his life was widely endorsed in a press release issued by the Democratic Committee.
“We couldn’t be more pleased to support Coach Vic Carstarphen for City Council,” Camden mayor Frank Moran said.
Camden city council president Curtis Jenkins said: “We still remember the great pride Vic instilled in our city when he led the Panthers to back-to-back state crowns. I look forward to serving with him as Camden undergoes this amazing renaissance.”
Carstarphen was unavailable for comment on Thursday night.
As recently as Sunday at the Carino Club all-star game, Carstarphen spoke optimistically about coaching the Panthers in the future.
Camden athletic director Mark Phillips was unavailable for comment.
Camden’s last game was a 69-67 loss to eventual state champion Haddonfield in the South Jersey Group 2 final on March 4.
It was the second year in a row that Camden lost in overtime to Haddonfield in the South Jersey Group 2 tournament.
Carstarphen spent the previous five seasons as an assistant at Camden under former coach John Valore, whose teams went 118-36 and lost in the state finals in 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017.
Camden this past season registered some impressive wins, beating Wildwood Catholic in a showcase game at the Boardwalk Classic in Wildwood, sweeping Paul VI in Olympic National play, knocking off South Jersey Group 4 finalist Cherokee as well as Group 3 state champion Moorestown.
Camden also was inconsistent at times, losing twice to rival Camden Catholic and dropping decisions to .500-level teams such as Bishop Eustace and Shawnee.
Playing a demanding schedule, the Panthers went 5-7 from a lopsided Jan. 27 loss to Roselle Catholic to a Feb. 21 loss to Camden Catholic in the regular-season finale.
The team’s struggles created some discontent among its passionate fan base as well as some former players.
Carstarphen met with more than a dozen former players in a discussion about the future of the program on Saturday night in Camden, according to several sources.
Carstarphen had said shortly after the season that the team’s inconsistency was a result of offseason upheaval, from his appointment as head coach to the addition of three athletes in the team’s regular rotation who had played in the Philadelphia Catholic League during the 2017-18 season.
“I felt like we really started to come together at the end of the season,” Carstarphen said a few days after the loss to Haddonfield. “Guys were understanding, guys were buying in.
“It was the first year. It was a learning year.”
Carstarphen was a star player at Camden in the mid 1980s, helping the Panthers to Group 4 state titles in 1986 and 1987. In his senior year in 1988, Camden lost in the state final.