Dauntless Dragon Serves as Mentor for Others
Johnnie Bryant ’03
Johnnie Bryant ’03 understands the powerful impact a mentor can have on a young person. Having someone that believes you can accomplish great things is a powerful catalyst for achievement, he said.
Growing up in a single-family home, with his mom working the graveyard shift, Bryant was often home by himself after school. Left to his own devices, he generally chose to play hoops in the front yard instead of hit the books. His basketball skills were stellar, his grades not so.
At O’Dowd, Bryant met Lou Richie ’89 – at that time an assistant coach for the men’s varsity basketball team – who intervened when Bryant became academically ineligible to play basketball for parts of his sophomore and junior seasons. “He used to walk me to class and one day he told me ‘You know you’re going to graduate from high school and you’re going to graduate from college’,” Bryant recalled. “I looked at him and said ‘I have a 1.5 grade point average. There’s no way that’s going to happen’.”
Under Richie’s guidance, and with help from social studies teacher Tony Green, by senior year Bryant was posting a respectable 3.3 grade point average. “They gave me the road map, as far as how to study and prepare and do school work,” he said.
“And they believed in me, which gave me confidence,” Bryant said. “I didn’t want to let them down so that was motivation for me, too.”
That’s why Bryant, now an assistant coach with the Utah Jazz, embraces any opportunity that presents itself to pay it forward.
One of the ways he does that is by participating in the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) and the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) global development and community relations outreach program for youngsters, Basketball Without Borders (BWB), which helps promote leadership, education, sportsmanship and healthy living as well as friendship, openness and respect.
Bryant first participated in a BWB Africa Camp held in Angola in 2016, and this summer traveled to Israel for a BWB Europe Camp.
“I’ll go wherever they want to send me,” he said. “I love having the opportunity to give back to the community.”
Success on the Court and in the Classroom
Though Bryant had to sit out a significant part of two seasons at O’Dowd, he is a member of the Dragons’ 1,000-point club. His won-loss record at O’Dowd is an amazing 101-19, one of the best of any hoopster to wear the black and gold.
After playing at San Francisco City College for a year, Bryant earned a scholarship to the University of Utah where he received the Jack Gardner team MVP award for the 2007-08 season. He is the Utes all-time leader in career 3-point shooting percentage and is ranked No. 20 on the all-time scoring list.
He played one season professionally with Telemotive Muenchen, Germany, and then founded Bryant Sports Academy, a unique skills development program. There, he trained and mentored over 150 athletes from 2009-2012, including NBA players Ronnie Price and Paul Millsap, advancing their skill sets through personalized workout sessions.
He joined the Jazz, initially working as a player development assistant, during the summer of 2012.When head coach Quin Snyder was hired in 2014, he promoted Bryant to assistant coach. He now sits on the front of the bench. He also served as Utah’s Summer League head coach in 2016.
Bryant excelled in the classroom, too. After being offered a scholarship at the University of Utah, he transferred to Ohlone College, from San Francisco City College, where he took 27 credits in a single semester so that he could graduate from junior college and be eligible for the scholarship – which had opened up unexpectedly.
At Utah, Bryant graduated with dual bachelor’s degrees – human development and family studies/sports management – in three years.
Making an Impact
Though Bryant always dreamed of making a name for himself in the NBA, he anticipated it would be on the court and not on the bench. However, he feels very blessed and fortunate his path led him to coaching.
“To be able to help players improve and have an impact on their lives during the time that you coach them is what it’s all about,” he said. “The wins and losses don’t compare to the life lessons and the relationships you build through the game of basketball.”
At 31, Bryant is one of the youngest assistant coaches in the league, but has earned the respect of veteran players like Jazz swingman and seven-time All-Star Joe Johnson. “Joe Johnson has played for 16 years, scored 20,000 points in his career, and is a potential Hall of Famer,” Bryant said. “For him to listen to little old me is humbling. I definitely don’t take that lightly.”
Bryant considers his mentorship of others as pay back for the kindness shown to him. “This was my ‘agreement’ with Lou. He always told me that I didn’t owe him anything – all I needed to do was help someone else,” he said. “So that’s been my approach, to pay it forward and ultimately have an impact on other lives. When you give of yourself to someone you never know how that might positively affect them for the rest of their life.”
Bryant and his wife, Vanessa, have a two-year-old daughter, Janessa.