A few years back, Ronald Nored got a call he wasn’t expecting. It was from Brooklyn Nets assistant general manager Trajan Langdon, and shortly after Nored was the head coach for the new Long Island Nets NBA G League franchise.
“I had interest in getting back in the NBA, and I have no idea how they would have known that,” said Nored. “But I got a call from Trajan, and the process went on for about a week where I met with him, talked to Sean (Marks) and they agreed that I was the guy for the job.”
Recently, Nored got another call that was a bit of a surprise. He had a little heads up this time from Nets general manager Sean Marks. But he otherwise had no idea that USA Basketball Men’s National Team Director Sean Ford was about to offer him an assistant coaching position with the USA Basketball men’s national team that will compete in the FIBA World Cup Qualifying games.
Nored joins former Georgetown coach John Thompson III on the staff of head coach Jeff Van Gundy.
“I said I would love to join and love to be a part of that,” said Nored. “I was pretty surprised. It wasn’t something I was expecting whatsoever. I’m very excited about the opportunity.”
It’s the latest step for the precocious professional coach, who was named Long Island’s head coach at the age of 26 two years ago. After a college career in which he played in two NCAA Tournament championship games for Butler, Nored was barely older than some of the G League players he was coaching the past two years. He could be one of them still, or playing overseas.
Instead, he knew halfway through his time in college that he wasn’t going to extend his playing career. Surgery after his sophomore year helped push him in that direction. But he also says that he genuinely prefers coaching over playing. It was an easy choice.
“To me, my whole life philosophy is just to push other people to be better so that they push other people to be better as well,” said Nored. “And basketball is my way of doing that. I love basketball. So it just made sense. For me, playing was reliving … I wasn’t the best player. So I spent a lot of times making mistakes and a lot of time reliving a lot of bad mistakes that I made. Plus, your body gets beat up regularly.
“I’d rather be doing what I’m doing now. You can still push other people to be better and to help them push other people to be better by playing, and a lot of players do that well. It just wasn’t for me. I probably could have gone overseas and played, but it would have delayed doing what I really wanted to do.”
Nored had that part figured out. But the course of his coaching career has taken turns he didn’t expect. Growing up in college football crazy Alabama, playing college hoops, that’s where his focus always was. He would have loved to have stayed on at Butler to coach with Brad Stevens. But before his senior year was even over, he’d been offered a head coaching job at Indiana’s Brownsburg HS, the alma mater of his Butler teammate Gordon Hayward.
The next year, Nored did end up working for Stevens, just not in the Horizon League.
With Stevens taking over as head coach of the Boston Celtics, Nored took a spot as an assistant coach for the franchise’s G League team, the Maine Red Claws. He spent the next season on staff with the Celtics before the lure of the college environment pulled him back. Nored figured that’s where he was heading anyway, so it was time to get some recruiting experience. But after a year at Northern Kentucky, he realized his time in the NBA had changed the way he looked at coaching.
“I really missed the NBA,” said Nored. “I really missed working with the level of players. I really missed this game flow. I missed the day to day work. Fortunately had the opportunity to come work here. This has been the most challenging thing I’ve done in my life, but it’s also been the best and the most rewarding thing I’ve done.”
The early opportunity to be a head coach is a unique challenge. He’s learning at the head of the bench, with less of an apprenticeship than most. For a guide, he often relies on his time around Stevens.
“He is the No. 1 influencer in really a lot of my life,” said Nored. “My dad passed away when I was young, when I was in eighth grade. Since my dad passed away, I’ve had some great male role models in my life that have really helped me. But going to college, it changed it. I knew with Brad, I saw that you could be a really good coach, while being a great guy, while being a great dad and a great husband. As much as I love basketball – I wasn’t married at the time, I wanted to be a great husband, I wanted to be a dad. I wanted to coach basketball the right away and win, all of those. I saw through him that you could do that.”
With Team USA, Nored will be assisting Van Gundy, the former Knicks and Rockets head coach who also broadcasts for ESPN and ABC’s lead NBA team. Aside from a brief meeting last summer with Van Gundy, Nored doesn’t have a significant previous connection with the staff. But for this tournament, one of six windows of qualifying games for the World Cup, USA Basketball will be using G-League players. And Nored has great familiarity there.
“They understand the grind, what it takes to compete every day,” said Nored. “It will be fun to get around those guys and some high-level G League players competing for our country.”
There’s about a week of training camp before the team plays two games at the end of June and the beginning of July in Mexico and Cuba. There will also be two more games in September.
“To build a team and get them on the same page to go out and play two games is a challenge,” said Nored. “Obviously, coach Van Gundy has done it a couple times, so I’m sure he’s got a pretty good grip on it. It will be a new experience for me.”