Higher calling leads Camardella to step down at Prospect

  • Prospect boys basketball coach John Camardella is stepping down after 14 years to pursue a Master's degree at Harvard.

    Prospect boys basketball coach John Camardella is stepping down after 14 years to pursue a Master's degree at Harvard. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

By Dick Quagliano
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 3/13/2021 2:16 PM

It is a higher calling.

Prospect boys basketball coach John Camardella has two loves in his life -- his family and basketball.


In an email to the Prospect community Saturday morning, Camardella is stepping down at Prospect after 14 years as head coach. He will also be taking a one-year sabbatical from his teaching duties at Prospect.

"it has been like leading two lives here at Prospect," Camardella said. "I have a such a deep passion for basketball and always have since I was young. But this is an ever-growing need to try and increase the religious and cultural literacy of young people. First and foremost, in our community. And then across our country and internationally. It is something that has been calling me and now I have an opportunity."

Camardella has accepted an opportunity to receive his Master of Religion and Public Life at Harvard's Divinity School. It is the first new Masters program created at Harvard in more than 50 years.

"When I am thinking directly about young people, our society, and rightly so, expects them to read and write," Camardella said. "We expect them to be financially literate. We expect them to be nutritionally literate. There are other literacies when it comes to social media and technology. When are we going to say that we want them to be religiously and culturally literate?"

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Camardella, who is a history teacher at Prospect, has been teaching a social studies class for seniors in World Religions. It is has become a nationally recognized class, taught at public schools. It promotes awareness not just to Camardella's students, but parents, teachers and administrators as well.

"John has done has a fantastic job of molding student-athletes," Prospect assistant principal Frank Mirandola said. "His magnetic culture draws all kids in and shows that inclusiveness matters. He has been a great ambassador for Prospect in and out of the classroom and certainly on the basketball court."

Camardella, who has worked with Harvard the past couple of years, has been involved in writing the guidelines to teaching religion in public schools. He is currently working with an international baccalaureate program out of the Netherlands that is working to restructure their course.

"My affiliation with Harvard has allowed me to impact our students here," Camardella said. "Now I can have a larger impact and make the world more educated and increase understanding."


Basketball has been a huge part of Camardella's life. He played at Hersey and then at Illinois Wesleyan, before coming to Prospect after graduating from college.

He became the head basketball coach at Prospect in 2007 and led the Knights to the Mid-Suburban East title. His teams would go on to win 10 East division titles, three MSL conference championships and two regional titles including the 2019-20 season.

Camardella was the longest serving and winningest head coach in school history. He compiled a 229-149 record and was 109-30 against East opponents. He was named MSL East coach of the year eight times.

Camardella, who told his players last Monday about his decision to attend Harvard, is quick to point out that it was his players that made his program so successful. Prospect would have 28 players named all-conference, 23 all-area and four East players of the year during his tenure.

Camardella's letter to the Prospect community thanked them for his support these 14 years. It can be read here: https://twitter.com/ProspectHoops/status/1370753434580889603/photo/1.

'It is hard to put into words how much basketball has meant to me," Camardella said. "It has been a constant in my life for as long as I can remember."

Camardella will return to Prospect after he receives his Masters. But he won't be back coaching.

"I'm coming back, Camardella said. "My first love is for my family. I am also completely invested in this community. We are so complex. For me to see these young people and to understand how they fit into this extremely diverse society."

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