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Nothin’ but a number: Nets D-League coach defying expectations

Youth movement: Long Island Nets head coach Ronald Nored is just 26 years old, but he’s more than prepared to lead his team on and off the court.
Getty Images / Nathaniel S. Butler

He’s used to the question now.

Ronald Nored almost expects it at this point — the confused looks, the slightly lowered eyebrows, the mutterings of “Aren’t you too young to be a coach?”

The 26-year-old, who was named the first head coach of the Long Island Nets last year, takes it all in stride, nodding and smiling and then, more often than not, heading straight back to the gym and his team and the role he’s certain he was born for — coach.

“I got asked about it last night, went to watch my alma mater play and someone said ‘How is it coaching guys that are your age or even older than you?’ And to be honest with you, it’s been great,” Nored said.

“You can be 45, 50 years old and not work hard or care about the players and help them in their careers and they won’t respect you,” he added. “It’s about how much we’re willing to sacrifice for the betterment of the players.”

Nored first drew the national spotlight during his college career at Butler, leading the Bulldogs to back-to-back National Championship appearances in 2010 and 2011. He was a vocal leader on and off the court and after his playing career ended, he knew he belonged on the sidelines.

He dabbled in the high school and college game before teaming up once again with former Butler coach Brad Stevens who offered him a job in the Celtics organization. Nored served as a player development assistant in Boston and worked as an assistant with the team’s D-League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws. He also started building his own coaching persona — and he credits Stevens for most of it.

“Brad has probably had the biggest impact on me,” Nored said. “He kind of laid out the blueprint for me when I was a player. It gave me a window into the coaching world.”

Nored’s resume includes a season as an assistant at Northern Kentucky University in 2015 — but the road to head-coaching glory has been a bit bumpier than he expected.

The Nets started off the season 2–11 and coaching D-League players is different than any other team Nored has encountered.

“You have to figure out a way to get them to want to achieve the same goal while explaining that it will still help them achieve their individual goal,” Nored said. “I think more at this level than any other level because guys aren’t in the D-League to stay. That’s definitely one of the challenges at this level.”

The key for Nored, from a coaching standpoint, is helping his players develop. The Nets, much like Nored, are young — even at the NBA level — and a D-League squad is a much-needed building block in establishing success down the line.

Nored has done his best to keep his players focused on the immediate, on the next game and the next play. He’s as much teacher as he is coach this season, trying to create a very specific culture within the organization.

“I pride myself on using basketball to help guys learn grow as human and as players,” Nored said. “It’s a great position to be in.”

Nored has learned more about himself in the last few months than he ever expected — dealing with adversity and players and those pesky questions about his age — but he’s also having the time of his life on the sidelines. He wouldn’t change any of it and he can’t wait for the next challenge, determined to help build something on the hardwood.

“I think the biggest thing that I want to do is to serve others,” Nored said. “When I was a player that was my goal as the leader of the team and I guess it’s a natural kind of progression into coaching. That’s my biggest goal.”

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