Rick Brunson came up in Philadelphia, starred at Temple and then went on to a nine-year NBA career spent with eight different teams. Now, after a run as an NBA assistant coach, he’s headed back to coach in the Philadelphia area after being tabbed by a former college teammate to take over in his stead.
As reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer, among other sources, Brunson is expected to serve as the next head basketball coach at Camden (N.J.) High School, a program with an elite prep legacy. Camden has won 11 state titles and was the last public school to win a New Jersey Tournament of Champions crown, in 2000 when the team was led by single-game 100-point scorer Dajuan Wagner and Arthur Barclay.
In a unique twist, just as Brunson arrives he’s expected to also welcome in Wagner’s son, J. Wagner, in fall 2019. Per the Inquirer, Wagner’s family is in the process of establishing residency in Camden, which would make D.J. eligible to compete for his father’s alma mater as a freshman.
That’s a significant development, as the younger Wagner is already considered one of the top talents in the Class of 2023. He’s already a breakout star for the Team Final AAU squad that also competes on the Nike EYBL circuit.
Should he arrive for the 2019-20 school year, Wagner would join a robust core at Camden that includes rising senior Lance Ware and rising juniors Jerome Brewer and TaQuan Woodley.
Now that group will be coached by a man with an NBA legacy; beyond his own career, Brunson now pays close attention to the Dallas Mavericks, for whom his son Jalen — the ex-Villanova champion point guard — now plays.
Brunson takes over the reins at Camden from Vic Carstarphen, a former Temple teammate who led the program for just a single season before deciding he needed to focus more time and attention on running for a seat on the Camden City Council.
While Brunson’s appointment is viewed as a near-certainty, there are past reports that could tomahawk his candidacy.
Brunson has twice in recent years been accused of sexual impropriety, though no charges have been brought against him. As chronicled by the Inquirer, Brunson was charged with attempted criminal sexual assault, though he was acquitted after testifying that a sexual encounter with a massage therapist was consensual. Then in 2018, when Brunson resigned as an assistant coach with the Timberwolves, rumors circulated that Brunson had allegedly sexually harassed multiple women. No charges were ever brought in relation to that case.
Now, provided the school board accepts his appointment, Brunson will lead a public program in New Jersey that has a chance to make major noise.