Ronald Nored thought he was normal. Nored, the head coach of the Long Island Nets, the Brooklyn Nets’ D-League team, figured that liking coaching over playing was a totally normal thing and that there were other people out there like him.
Turns out, he’s in a unique spot; most 25-year-olds want to be on the court, but Nored prefers the sidelines.
“I loved the process of helping guys get better and that’s what coaching is for me,” he said. “I feel like I was put on this earth to bring the best out of other people and I love basketball, so naturally, that’s coaching. I just try to bring the best out of other people using basketball as that tool.”
This wasn’t a recent urge for Nored, whose desire to coach has been public dating back to high school. He coached his first team during his senior year of high school and coached an AAU team while in college at Butler University, where he was a starting point guard and took his team to back-to-back national championship games. Nored figured a playing career was possible overseas, but in his mind he was just delaying what he really wanted to do.
So while he was at Butler, he studied more than just early childhood education, getting one-on-one lessons from Butler coach Brad Stevens, now the current bench boss for the Boston Celtics.
“Brad is the ultimate mentor for me,” Nored said. “The relationship we developed when I was a player really grew from year to year and he knew early on that I was interested in coaching so I really spent my time at Butler as a player, learning to coach. It was almost like I was in school for coaching at that time.”
Nored absorbed everything he could from Stevens, watching film with the coach, taking notes on things that happened in practice, the things he said and how he said them. He studied how Stevens watched film, his processes and preparations. He learned from the man he saw off the court as well, the balance he was able to strike between being a coach and a family man. Nored is getting married at the end of the summer, so he’ll be looking to strike that same balance.
“I saw the way he treated his wife, the way he treated his kids,” Nored said. “That really inspired me, so seeing him do that as a player, obviously going to work for him in Boston, that’s what he’s taught me. There have been a lot of life lessons through coaching.”
Nored worked for Stevens for two seasons in Boston, the first as a player development coach/assistant coach with the Maine Red Claws – Boston’s D-League affiliate – and then as the Celtics’ player development director in his second season. He was young, 23 when he landed his first role in Boston, but said there are positives to being at eye level when it comes to age.
“I just went through it,” said Nored, the two-time Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year. “If I’m talking to a player about doing something, I just did it. I just went through it as a player and the nuances of the game, I know those.”
There’s the relatability factor too. Nored came of age during the emergence of social media, so he understands the world young players are living in. He’s plugged in, with over 9K followers on Twitter and a blog. But he’s a people person and part of his strategy as a coach is to build solid relationships with his players.
“Being yourself is really important and developing good relationships is really important,” he said. “There are times where I’ll be upset at a player and he’ll be upset at me. Those things happen for every coach for every team that’s ever played basketball or any sport. Others may see that as a challenge, but I think it’s part of the job and I think that hopefully I do a good enough job establishing relationships with guys, our staff does a good enough job of establishing relationships with guys that to number one, they aren’t frequent, but number two, they are resolved pretty easily.”
As a coach, Nored said he wants to let his players be free on the floor.
“I don’t have a small personality and I’m not very quiet ever, but I like letting players play,” Nored said. “As coaches we do our work on the front end through practice and preparation and in the game we let guys play and let guys be free and figure it out. I was always best as a player when I was able to play free. Building guys up in games and putting people in the right position as a coach is really important, managing the game, lineups and things like that. I won’t be running up and down the sideline, or jumping anything like that. At times I probably will be, but just keeping the guys focused. We’re going to have a good staff that also helps put guys in position. Really trusting the players and trusting the staff.”
Climbing the coaching ranks is a lot like climbing a mountain. There’s no straight line and you stop to set up camp in many different spots along the way. Nored has experienced that life as a nomad, having moved eight times since graduating from Butler in 2012. He’s lived in Maine, Boston and soon will be in Brooklyn, a bit of a departure from his hometown of Homewood, Alabama. He said Maine is more an abstract idea than tangible place for most Alabamians, but enjoyed his time up north and said Brooklyn is unlike anywhere else in the world and he’s excited to be here next season.
“It’s a lot different from anywhere,” said Nored. “After a week here I’ve gotten used to it. I know that when I don’t have the walk sign in the street, but there are no cars coming and I don’t want to look like I’m a from some other place, I better get out and walk with everyone else, those kind of things. I picked it up. I really enjoyed it. This is a unique place. I’ve had the opportunity to live in a few different places and I’m enjoying it. I like learning, I like seeing different things. I spent 45 minutes studying the map of New York City, just figuring out how to get around and spent a day just walking, literally walking for 13 hours around the city to figure it out. I enjoy that. When my fiancé gets out here it’ll be even more fun.”
The Long Island Nets are in a unique spot next season, practicing and playing in the same facilities as the Brooklyn Nets. A unique coach like Nored could fit right in.