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Season Preview: CHD sits down with new ODU assistant coach Bryant Stith

To prepare for the tip-off of another great year of college basketball, CHD is reaching out to coaches and players around the country to get the inside scoop on what we can expect this time around.  Jon Teitel continues our season preview series by chatting with new Old Dominion assistant coach Bryant Stith about playing on a team led by Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Boeheim.

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Earlier this year your former coach Jeff Jones hired you to be one of his assistants at Old Dominion. Why did you take the job and what are your expectations for the upcoming season? I was always intrigued in coaching at the next level and Coach Jones has been my mentor since he began recruiting me in the 9th grade. I talked with him for the past couple of years about what it would take to become a college coach. I put my name in to try to be a coach at ODU before Coach Jones was even hired.  After he got hired, I went to Norfolk and had a great conversation with him, so I am thankful for the opportunity and want to be as successful as possible for Coach Jones and  the school. I expect us to work hard and I will learn as much as I can to help Coach Jones implement his vision. We know that Rome was not built in a day, but we need to improve each and every day to get the program back to its prior level of success.

In 1989 you were named ACC rookie of the year at Virginia. How were you able to come in and contribute right from the start? I was blessed to be put in that position. People thought I would be a pretty good college player but nobody had an overwhelming notion that I would be one of the top players in our conference. One of our players (Kenny Turner) had an injury and I just made the most of the opportunity to play.

What are your memories of the 1990 NCAA tourney (you scored 30 points but had your shot blocked by Derrick Coleman with just four seconds left in a two point loss to Syracuse)? That was a fabulous game at the Richmond Coliseum. We had a great crowd that gave us a home-court advantage. We made a tremendous charge in the second half and just came up six inches short after Coleman got a piece of my baseline jumper.

You won a bronze medal as a member of team USA at the 1990 FIBA World Championship in Argentina. What was it like to play for a team led by head coach Mike Krzyzewski and assistant coach Jim Boeheim? It was a wonderful opportunity to play for a guy who recruited me. My final two college choices were Virginia and Duke. To play with arguably the best collegiate players in the country and have two of the best coaches in NCAA history leading us allowed me to expand my boundaries and see how other players approached the game mentally and with a great work ethic. I was more equipped to handle challenges mentally after that summer.

In the 1992 NIT title game, you scored 24 points in a five point overtime win over Notre Dame en route to being named NIT MVP. What did it mean to you to win a title? We were bitterly disappointed to not make the NCAA field of 64 and everyone was down, but myself and my co-captain pulled the team together and said that we had to make the most of this opportunity to show the rest of the country that we had deserved a spot in the NCAA tourney. We went on a great run even with a lot of freshmen (like Cory Alexander and Junior Burrough) playing key roles.

You graduated as a three time All-American and the all-time leading scorer in school history. Did you realize at the time how prolific a player you were and do you think that anyone will ever break your record? I was blessed to have coaches who put me in positions to excel and some tremendous teammates who looked to me for leadership. I was just playing basketball and having fun doing something I loved, so I did not realize back then that I had a historic career in terms of scoring. It came easy to me because I did it within the framework of the team concept, which is what I am proudest of. I was always a team-first player who was concerned more about winning then about receiving any accolades.

In the summer of 1992, you were drafted 13th overall by the Denver  Nuggets (two spots behind Robert Horry). Did you see that as a validation of your college career or the realization of a lifelong dream of reaching the NBA, or other? I had been fighting an uphill battle my entire life and felt that I never won the respect of the basketball world, so when the Nuggets drafted me it definitely validated all of my hard work. If you believe in yourself and trust in your abilities, then it does not matter what other people say about you.

In the 1994 Western Conference first round, you scored 10 points in a four point win at Seattle in the decisive Game 5 (becoming the first #8-seed to ever win a playoff series). How were you able to pull off the upset? Nobody really gave us a chance in this match-up of David vs. Goliath. We were a young team so we did not realize that we were not supposed to win! As the series went along the pressure shifted from us to Seattle, and we were able to seal the deal in overtime, which was the defining moment of my NBA career.

Your 84.1 career FT% remains in the top-75 all-time in NBA history. What is your secret for being a great free throw shooter? Just repetition and hard work. I went to the 5-star Basketball Camp during high school and learned from coaches like Rick Pitino and Herb Sendek who spent a lot of time with me teaching me how to shoot the ball. When I got home, I would just go in my backyard and build the confidence I would need to step up to the line in games.

After becoming head coach at Brunswick High School, you helped lead your team to a state title in each of the past three seasons with the help of your sons B.J. and Brandon. What makes you such a good coach and who is the best player in the family? I spent seven years at Brunswick and inherited a team with a lot of talent and a program with a great tradition. We lost in the state tourney during my first year but it helped set the stage for our future success. I played for a lot of great coaches during my career and just used something from all of them to improve our program. I wanted to be a motivator and teach kids how to compete consistently. I was blessed to coach my sons and cement our legacy in Virginia high school basketball history. I was the best player in the family, without a shadow of a doubt. I always joke with my sons that I have five titles and they have three!

JonTeitel