Ronald Nored has known Brad Stevens for about 11 years. You know, since he was 17.
The Long Island Nets’ head coach even lived in Stevens’ basement while an assistant with the Boston Celtics in 2014-15, a couple of years after being a four-year starter for Stevens’ Butler University Bulldogs. From those first meetings when Nored was a high school point guard from Alabama, the two have moved from that special coach-to-point guard connection to a brotherly bond between coaches.
“When I watch TV I still pinch myself from time to time, like man, I got to be coached by that guy,” Nored told NetsDaily on Wednesday just before the Celtics blew out the Cleveland Cavaliers in game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Stevens and Nored still keep in contact. Nored even says he’ll visit Boston at least once a year to meet up with Stevens and his family, which serves as an extension of his own. And of course, actually living with the man and his family offered a new perspective, and a glimpse into a future Nored, 28, hopes to see for himself one day.
Nored thinks Stevens success has more to do with who he is as a man than the mastery of x’s and o’s. He learned in the basement.
“I was able to see him interact with his wife and kids,” he said of Stevens, 41, who Boston hired five years ago. “That was really cool to me that this guy, number-one, did everything right in college basketball as far as the way he ran his program, but (Stevens) was also great husband and a great father.
“For me that was like … I could strive to be that guy. I don’t have to cheat to be good. I can spend time with my kids, I can be a great husband and still be good.”
Seeking occasional guidance, Nored still calls Stevens during the course of the season when in need of advice for the typical, ‘what do you think should happen here? How should I handle this situation? What should I do here?’ and so on.
And why not? Stevens has always been there, and he’s undergone plenty of what Nored is going through now as a young coach.
He says from their time together at Butler through their time on the Celtics’ bench, Steven was a willing mentor.
“I would say he is probably the biggest influence on my coaching life and had a massive influence on my personal life as well, up there with my mom and my dad,” said Nored. “But over the course of those four years you can kind of see the professional type of relationship start to build – by the time I was a senior I was spending time in his office learning the game and watching film with him.
“When he found out I wanted to coach he was grooming me to be a coach and think about the game differently.”
Nored turned down an academic scholarship from Harvard – where he would have played with Jeremy Lin – as well as basketball scholarships from the University of South Alabama and Samford University to play for Stevens at Butler, where he became a two-time Horizon Defensive Player of the Year ... and played with Gordon Hayward.
Those Butler teams memorably reached the NCAA National Championship game in 2011 and 2012, Nored’s upperclassmen seasons. Stevens held his defensive-minded point guard and protégé most accountable for the way the Bulldogs functioned on a day-to-day basis.
He called Nored his “energy raiser,” his leader.
Witnessing the Celtics, minus Kyrie Irving and Hayward, make a seemingly improbable run to this year’s NBA Finals comes as no surprise for the Long Island Net head coach.
“Their talent is being maximized and the same thing happened when we were at Butler,” said Nored. “People thought we weren’t really that good or weren’t supposed to be that good but we had talent. We had two NBA players when we made a run. It’s a credit to, kind of the whole organization.
“To me, there’s no surprise. I’ve lived it. I’ve been a part of that. I know how Smart Brad is and how great relationships he built with the players to get the most out of them.”
As far as what he’s adopted from Stevens, Nored points to the overall mentality and view on coaching he’s held.
“As coaches, we’re not supposed to be in the front. We are there to work and to serve the players and to get the most out of them,” said Nored.
“One thing (Stevens) does, it’s just an everyday, ‘how can I get out of myself to make everyone else around me better?’ I’ve taken that approach. Some coaches don’t do it like that. Some coaches do think it’s about them and it is kind of about the way they want to do things. With Brad it’s not like that – it’s okay that you share a seat on a plane, it’s being humble.”
Stevens is a big supporter of Nored as well. He referred to Nored as ‘one of the all-time great leaders’ he’s ever coached as recently as two years ago. But the young coach insists he won’t be anything like his former Bulldog leader – and that’s a good thing.
“I will never be Brad Stevens. I have to be the best Ronald Nored I can be,” he said.
So far so good. Not only is he seen as a top G-League coach, but he’s just been named an assistant on Jeff Van Gundy’s Team USA staff and coached scrimmages at last week’s NBA Draft Combine.
The protege is working out on his own.