U.Va. basketball's all-time leading scorer had one major goal after four years as a Wahoo and 10 seasons in the NBA: to relax.
"Working was not in my plans, I could tell you that," says Bryant Stith, 41. "I wanted to rehabilitate my body. It had broken down from the rigors of my NBA career, so I just wanted to go to physical therapy and make sure I'd be in good shape for the next 30 to 40 years."
He began rehabbing his knees and ankles and started working with local youth basketball and football teams. Then officials at Brunswick High School came to him and asked if he would coach its basketball team, which had struggled in recent years. The decision wasn't easy for Stith.
"When I was playing basketball, I never wanted to be a coach," he says. "I had some good coaches but also some not-so-good coaches, especially toward the end of my NBA career. That basically turned me away from the game."
But after talking with his family, including his four children, Stith decided that the opportunity to return to the basketball court was too appealing to pass up. He became the Bulldogs' head coach in 2005—and led them to the Division III state championship game that season.
"It was like a dream come true," Stith says. "The only thing that went wrong that first season was that we didn't win the championship."
Nor did he win the next year, nor the year after that. In fact, Stith and his team made four consecutive trips to the state title game before they won the championship in 2010-11, a season in which the team finished 29-1. The Bulldogs repeated as state champions in 2011-12.
Stith says he loves coaching in what he calls a "true basketball community."
"I think that the community and the program were starving for a return to glory," Stith says. "I just happened to come along at the right time. I inherited some very good players and it was a perfect marriage."
His players have rejuvenated his love for the game, and he's found he still thrives on the competition. He spends hours drawing up game plans and figuring out tactical advantages over his opponents, a strategy he likens to playing chess.
"With B.J., it was U.Va. all the way," Stith says. "He had letters from some of the top programs in the country and he'd just let them sit on his desk, unopened. I asked him some tough questions to see if he was as committed to U.Va. as it appeared. Every question that I asked, he answered with a resounding 'yes.'"
Since moving back to Virginia, the Stith family has attended at least one Cavalier football and basketball game every season, despite the two-and-a-half-hour drive from home. Stith also maintained close ties to the University as a member of the Alumni Association's Board of Managers for 2008-11. "My kids grew up wearing blue and orange—it's in their blood," Stith says. He also takes his Brunswick team to a U.Va. basketball game at least once every other season.
Stith plans to continue coaching after his sons graduate from high school—possibly even outside of Lawrenceville.
"I'm considering making that jump to the next level, it's just a matter of where I'm going to land," Stith says. "I'm going to start putting my name out there because I think I'd like to pursue coaching as a second career."
For now, he's gearing up for another coaching season while also working as Brunswick's athletic director, a position he's held since 2009. The hoops team typically sells out their 2,000-seat gym, and Stith says he's "upgraded" their schedule to play some of the state's top teams.
Relaxation, Stith says, will have to wait a few more years.