Photo provided by Stephon Carter
To understand the impact that Stephon Carter had on the CSU Bakersfield men’s basketball program, a quick look at the 2019-20 Roadrunners’ media guide is all that is needed.
The former CSUB standout, who helped usher the school into the Division I basketball era, has his pictured plastered on the cover of the publication.
Carter’s significance doesn’t stop there. His name is featured more than a dozen times for individual game, season and career records. He finished his four-year tenure with the ’Runners as the school’s all-time leader in scoring, made free throws, free throw attempts, field goals and steals.
Now, just a few months removed from a six-year professional career, the 29-year-old Carter is ready for his next test on the hardwood after accepting a position as the varsity boys basketball coach at Centennial High School.
“I wasn’t sure I was done playing, but then this opportunity presented itself,” said Carter, who scored a school record 1,628 points at CSUB from 2009 to 2013. “If everything works out then I’ll start coaching. Eventually, I always wanted to, so I figured why not now?”
Carter replaces Hernan Santiago, who resigned in July following a seven-year stint where he led the Golden Hawks to two league titles.
It will also serve as Carter’s first head coaching job at this level.
“I’ve coached kids when I was overseas, but not to the extent of coaching a high school team or anything like that,” Carter said. “I had a little team of 13-year-olds, but the duties and responsibilities wasn’t like it is at a high school.”
Despite Carter’s lack of coaching experience, hiring the former local star was a big moment for Centennial athletic director Tom Haskell.
“Everybody I’ve ever talked to about him has said he’s always been the hardest worker on the court and he’s never satisfied,” Haskell said. “We interviewed him twice and it was one of the things that he emphasized; that you’re going to practice the way that you play.
“He’s a very respectful kid. I think I taught him during summer school when he was in eighth grade. It’s a good move for more kids.”
Carter played professionally in Spain for three years and had stints in Canada, Mexico and the U.S. in The Basketball League (TBL). He played in the semi-pro ABA this past season, leading his team to a 16-1 record before the coronavirus abruptly ended his season.
The uncertainty that followed motivated Carter to evaluate his situation, and ultimately, speed up his decision to start coaching.
“My career was kind of coming to an end and I knew I probably only had a couple more years to play,” said Carter, a three-time Division I All-Independent selection while at CSUB. “But COVID-19 did kind of speed up the process and overseas basketball is kind of up in the air. And I didn’t want to pass up this opportunity while I’m waiting for an opportunity for a job (playing). I’m still young and can still play, but my next career goal was to coach, so …”
Although trading in his uniform for a clipboard will be something new for Carter, he is confident that it will be a smooth transition.
“I want to give them wisdom and to teach them how to play first,” Carter said. “Academics is obviously important, and if I want to try to help them go to college. I want to teach them about respect, and not just as an athlete, and want to be a positive influence on them.”