The first day of practice for the St. Frances boys basketball team on Wednesday had a much different feel than expected.
Coach Mark Karcher, a 1997 alum who is regarded as one of the finest players to ever come out of Baltimore, resigned suddenly Saturday after three seasons, leaving the school to announce on Wednesday morning that assistant coach Nick Myles has taken over the duties.
Karcher, who turns 33 later this month, leaves his alma mater appreciating the time he spent coaching there, but also disappointed.
"Basically, it was a forced resignation, a situation where there was a conflict that was not able to be resolved," he said Wednesday night. "I wish we could have come to an agreement."
Karcher declined to further discuss the conflict.
In a written statement released Wednesday, the school wished Karcher success in the future and praised the leadership and dedication he showed over the past three years. Myles, also the school's athletic director, declined comment on the details of Karcher's resignation.
"I just want to put the kids in a good position to succeed," said Myles, who has been a varsity assistant and the junior varsity coach the past six years. "It's an unfortunate situation. I'm just looking to prepare the kids to have a successful season."
In Karcher's stellar four-year playing career at St. Frances (1993-97), he was twice named All-Metro Player of the Year and led the Panthers to three straight Baltimore Catholic League championships. He was named tournament MVP in each.
He then played three years at Temple under legendary coach John Chaney before being drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers in the second round after his junior year. Karcher went on to play professionally overseas before returning to his alma mater to coach in 2007.
After spending one season as an assistant under storied coach William Wells, he took over the program before the 2008-09 season and enjoyed immediate success as the Panthers swept the BCL and Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference titles. After repeating as MIAA champs in his second season, they went 19-10 last year and finished runner-up to John Carroll in both the BCL and MIAA.
In May, Karcher became a charter member of the BCL's Hall of Fame. He plans to stay in the area and continue to teach basketball to Baltimore youths.
"My three years coaching at St. Frances were great," he said. "I was able to reach out to a lot of kids with the knowledge I was blessed with and share what I learned from Coach Chaney and Coach Wells. I was able to teach them about hard work and also life through the game of basketball."
The Panthers are expected to again challenge for championships this season, as senior center Josh Forney joins forces with transfers DaQuan Cook (Digital Harbor) and Tevon Saddler (Aberdeen) to provide a strong foundation. Forney has committed to Loyola, Cook is headed to UNLV, and Saddler, a junior, is a potential high-major Division I prospect.
The school did not grant interviews to players following the announcement.
"You hate to see what happened to a great coach. It's unfortunate," said Putt Saddler, Tevon's father." But the bottom line is it's all about the kids and they need to regroup and move on — that's all they can do. Mark was one of the big reasons why Tevon chose St. Frances over the other private schools, and he was looking forward to working with him. I sat down with Tevon and just told him that he had to work hard for the new coach and do what he had to do."
St. Frances opens the season Dec. 2 at Calvert Hall.