Posted by Matt Norlander
HOUSTON — One of the hottest young coaching prospects in college basketball still plays college basketball.
It’s no secret junior Butler guard Ronald Nored wants to be a coach one day. It’s no secret he’ll be coveted as an assistant, oh, about 10 seconds after he walks off the podium in 2012, when he’ll graduate from Butler.
You think Brad Stevens is a young coach? Stevens was hired at Butler when he was 30. Nored could have him beat by two or three years, if his reputation continues to ascend, which it undoubtedly will. Can Nored become the youngest coach at the Division I level in college basketball history? Ask people in the business — both coaching and media — and they aren’t dismissing that possibility. Nored already coaches an under-16 AAU team in his spare time. He’s led “Team Truth” since late 2009.
“We got back last weekend from New Orleans, Sunday around noon, and he went straight to AAU practice with his team,” Shelvin Mack said. “It shows you his heart and desire of wanting to be a coach. That right there.”
Nored says he does it as much for fun and helping young kids as the experience it gives him. That teaching mindset he’s adapting to now that will put him on the track to getting a coaching job as soon as possible. It is undeniably his goal to be on a coaching staff within months upon earning his degree.
Earlier this week, Nored popped in to the coaches’ viewing session, unannounced, and watched a little bit of VCU’s tape. He wants to think how his coach is thinking. He wants to start making the transition now, even with a year to go on the court.
“I try my best to be the coach (on the floor),” he said. “If you don’t have that mindset, and you’re just watching basketball, you just watch as a fan. A fan will watch where the basketball’s going, or just watch a shot. A coach isn’t watching that. A coach is seeing what everyone without the basketball is doing, what the coach on the other sideline is doing, things like that. I’m trying to train and refocus my mind to where I watch basketball and watch sets, how people guard ball screens.”
He’s a great kid, one who’s always smiling, which stands in contrast to his identity as the defensive stud of this Butler team. Nored’s always been that way, too. Whatever points the Bulldogs can get from No. 5, great. But his value lies in lockdown defense and vocal leadership on the floor. This year’s Final Four run, for Nored, has been as much about upping his team’s defensive intensity as he possibly can.
“I love our defensive mentality, and I’ve definitely taken that and said defense will win the games for us,” Nored said. “No matter what your team buildup is, athletic-wise or lack thereof, if you can slow people down that’s how you can win games.”
Twelve years ago, Connecticut won its first national championship thanks in good part to the tremendous defensive play of Ricky Moore. Nored isn't physically as intimidating as Moore was, but he needs to play a role nearly as vital to ensure Butler does the suddenly thinkable and believable: win a national title.
And there are questions. Questions, questions, questions. He is always asking them before the games so he doesn’t have to use any during them. Here’s how it happens: Butler’s players get the scouting report tacked to the bulletin board. From there, the curiosity bubbles up.
“He’s able to see things now, as a player, from a coach’s point of view,” Mack said. “He’s able to talk with the coaches in a certain way.”
There is never an “OK, got it” moment for Nored after reading a rundown. He wants to watch the extra film, then he badgers — in a good way — Stevens and the other coaches for additional information, the fat that was cut from the scouting report.
“I want to know what this guy does, what to this guy do? What does that guy do?” Nored said. “I always ask coach who does what best. I learn it. Then I go to the stat sheet. … “It just normal. It just come naturally. I kind of find it exciting — I guess I’m kind of a nerd with that stuff.”
He’ll go on the Internet at night and peruse opponents’ statistical tendencies. Most players are playing video games.
“In film, everyone focuses, of course, but I really focus and try to memorize everything I can,” Nored said. “As we go through watching the sets on film, I ask, ‘What’s the name of this set? Are there variations to the sets?’ if they don’t show us. By the time we walk on the floor. Like, tomorrow, I’ll know every call VCU has an be able to scream it and yell it out.”
With that quote, Nored gives us something to watch for tomorrow night: how well will he will prepare for his play on the court. It's as much a mental game as a physical one for Nored. He's already well-equipped upstairs. How appropriate that this young man very well could be the next Brad Stevens.
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