Where Are They Now: Bryant Stith
Former Denver Nuggets guard enjoying successful coaching career
After a productive 10-year NBA career, former Denver Nuggets guard Bryant Stith moved back to his hometown of Lawrenceville, Va., with his high school sweetheart and their four children.
The quiet retirement was going according to plan until the new principal at Brunswick High School approached Stith about coaching the boys’ basketball team.
The principal, Lawrence Whiting, had made a list of his top three candidates.
“I asked him what those were,” Stith recalled during a telephone interview this week. “He said, ‘Bryant Stith, Bryant Stith and Bryant Stith.’ ”
Whiting obviously knew his stuff. With Stith on the bench, Brunswick advanced to the 2A state title game for seven straight years. Brandan and B.J. Stith played leading roles on the team as their dad guided the Bulldogs to championships in each of the past three seasons.
Because of the family connection, the victories were sweeter than Stith’s back-to-back state titles as a player at Brunswick in 1987 and 1988, and they surpassed anything he experienced in his college or pro basketball career.
“If I was writing a book, I couldn’t have scripted it any better,” he said. “I had missed out on a lot of special moments when the kids were growing up. I was able to make up for those lost times by being at home with the kids and coaching my sons and playing a major role in their development as basketball players.
“I would've loved to have won an NCAA national championship. I would've loved to have won an NBA title. But being there and being able to win my first state championship with my sons on the team and then to repeat and to win the third one with them, it was priceless.”
With Brandan now a freshman at East Carolina and B.J. transferring to the prestigious prep program at Oak Hill Academy, Stith is preparing for his first season as an assistant at Old Dominion University.
The move from high school to college could be another stepping stone for Stith’s eventual return to the NBA.
“I have to continue to grind and be successful at what I do,” he said. “Hopefully that may open doors for me down the road. Right now, my main focus is to be a good assistant coach for Jeff Jones and ODU. The Lord has always ordered my steps and I’m going to continue to be faithful, work hard, and let the chips fall where they may.”
Stith certainly knows a thing or two about destiny.
Drafted 13th overall by the Nuggets in 1992, he played a major role for the 1993-94 Denver team that upset the top-seeded Seattle SuperSonics in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.
The Nuggets improbably erased a 2-0 series deficit to become the first No. 8 seed in NBA history to advance past the first round.
As the 20th anniversary season approaches, Stith still cherishes the memories from that magical playoff run.
“People identify my NBA career with the win that we had over the Seattle SuperSonics,” he said. “Whenever anybody talks about my NBA career, they always talk about Dikembe (Mutombo) lying on the floor. They remember seeing me sprint around the floor and how excited they were for me.
“That was probably the defining moment of my NBA career as a player. Rightfully so because we had done something that had never been done in NBA history.”
Stith and the Nuggets nearly pulled off another comeback against the Utah Jazz, forcing a Game 7 after trailing the series 3-0. It was a captivating three-week stretch that energized a city and invigorated a franchise.
Stith would return to the playoffs just one more time in his final six seasons with the Nuggets, but Denver will always hold a special place in his heart. His two sons and two daughters (Bria and Brooke) were all born at Rose Medical Center.
“I enjoyed just how warm everybody was and how it was a great sports town,” he said. “I remember how well the Denver Broncos were playing (in the 1990s) and the excitement surrounding the Colorado Avalanche and the Rockies. It was an awesome time to be a sports fan in Denver.”
In eight seasons with the Nuggets, Stith was an excellent perimeter defender who averaged 10.9 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.03 steals in 458 games.
“I remember him being one of the stronger two guards in the league,” said Nuggets coach Brian Shaw, whose career overlapped with Stith’s. “He was just solid. He was a pretty good shooter, pretty physical defender. I just remember him being a solid player for the Nuggets.”
Though he was disappointed to be traded by Denver in 2000, Stith said he remains “a Denver Nugget to the core” and he enjoys watching the team from afar.
“I root for the Nuggets,” he said. “I think those guys are one player away from being among the elite teams. They play a very exciting brand of basketball, something people can identify with. I love to see those guys get up and down the court.”
Stith is still adjusting to Denver’s power-blue and gold color scheme that replaced the snow-capped peak design he wore for most of his career with the Nuggets. During his rookie season, the Nuggets had their rainbow skyline jerseys that have grown in popularity as “throwback” uniforms.
“When I first came into the league, I didn’t want to wear those jerseys,” Stith said with a laugh. “To see how popular they are here on the East Coast, it’s ironic. It makes you feel proud you were part of that era.”