BROWNSBURG, Ind. -- Ronald Nored -- that name might ring a Final Four bell -- is only 22. Guys that age are still at fraternity parties, not head varsity coaches in the high-octane world of Indiana high school basketball.
In other words, how do you lower the boom and bench starters on academic issues when you look almost young enough to play in the pep band? Well, he can. Ronald Nored? A guard on Butler's two teams that Cinderella-ed their way into the national championship game. Now coach of the Brownsburg Bulldogs, a 40-minute drive from Butler's campus. "This is all I've wanted to do for a very long time, since I was a junior in high school,'" he said, sitting in his office, with a picture of Butler's Final Four banners on the wall. "In college, people would say, 'You want to play basketball after this (professionally)? No, I don't want to play basketball. When my senior year is over, I want to coach.'" We're not talking the Hickory Huskers. Brownsburg is a school of nearly 2,300 students, which won a state championship in 2008 with Gordon Hayward, now of the Utah Jazz and also the 2010 Butler star who was on the back end of a good many Nored assists. Hayward's father is one of Nored's assistants. The great circle of basketball life. "There are guys that come here wanting to be coaches,'' Butler coach Brad Stevens said over the phone. "And Ronald was one of them." How are things going? Challenging. The Bulldogs are 4-9, trying to break a slump of three consecutive losing seasons. Ask Nored what has been hardest and the answer is immediate: "Teaching these kids how to win." Nored also has been insisting on the Butler Way, which drew such acclaim as the upstarts barnstormed through a couple of Marches. Accountability, academics, the right attitude. All which has made Stevens such a hot commodity. That, and the winning. "In college, I got to see the best guy in the country do it every day,'' Nored said. "All we did at Butler was talk about culture and building character. That's what we talk about here.'' So what happened when Brownsburg players didn't meet Nored's academic standards? Four missed a game, including two starters. What happened when a player had his third strike for behavior? Nored walked the young man to his parents and told them to take him home, he was no longer part of the program. "Basketball has to end for everybody at some point,'' Nored said. "Setting that precedent early is something I found very important, and something that is life-lasting. If we lose games because guys have to sit, that's how it is.'' At least two men like what they've seen so far. One is Stevens. "I want my kids around him. I want him to be a part of their lives because of the kind of person he is,'' Stevens said. "My advice to him was he can't get caught up in results, or the number of wins and losses. He's just got to get caught up in the growth of his team. When we've talked, he's done a wonderful job of recognizing and being aware of that.'' Another wears a purple Brownsburg sweater to nearly every game; school superintendent Jim Snapp. His decision last spring to hire Nored at 22 surprised a lot of people, including Ronald Nored. Snapp had read about Nored's leadership abilities and attended a Butler practice watching every Nored move. He talked to the Hayward family, and Stevens. "Some people said it's kind of a risky hire. I never believed that. We did our due diligence,'' Snapp said. "This guy's done more at 22 than a lot of people. We had the perfect job for the perfect person, not only in coaching.'' Nored is also an academic coach/counselor for the freshman class. He's yet to get his first technical foul and looks at the picture of those Butler banners every day, as a reminder of what is possible. But he has never watched the tape of the 2011 championship game loss to Connecticut -- when Butler's shooting infamously fell apart -- and never will. His only playing now is done with his staff and friends in a recreational league. Their team name: The Real Gordon Haywards. Thirteen games on the job have been enough to understand how good the high school players and coaches are in this state. "I didn't expect anything easy,'' Nored said. But then, beating Syracuse and Michigan State in March wasn't easy, either.