Kings Q&A: Micah Nori
Get to know new Kings Assistant Coach Micah Nori, plus gain insight into the team’s scouting and game-preparation practices.
After spending 15 years with the Toronto Raptors – overseeing scouting operations and managing opponent preparation, as well as serving as assistant coach over the last four seasons – Kings Assistant Coach Micah Nori joined Head Coach Michael Malone’s staff in July.
“Things could not have worked out better,” says Nori. “I couldn’t have drawn up a better scenario if I was going to leave (Toronto) and come to a situation where you have every opportunity to be successful.”
In a recent interview with Kings.com, the former collegiate baseball standout at Indiana University dishes on his unique path to the NBA, breaks down essential scouting and preparation components and more.
What intrigued you most about the opportunity to coach in Sacramento?
“I’ve been very fortunate to be in one place for 15 years and worked for a lot of great people and a lot of great coaches in that time. If I was going to jump from Toronto for another opportunity, Coach Malone is one of the few people I’d take that chance with because he’s a great person, he’s a great coach and his ideals and philosophies are in line with mine. I’m just happy he welcomed me and asked me to be a part of what he’s doing here.
“As far as the staff, I didn’t get to work with his father, (Brendan Malone), in Toronto, but everybody knows him from his days in Detroit, Indiana and Orlando, so he’s been great to get to know on a personal level and to pick his brain. Chris Jent, (I admire) his work ethic and what he’s all about. Dee Brown was actually on the first two teams in Toronto I was a part of 15 years ago, so I’ve known him for a long time. I don’t know Ryan Bowen personally, but he’s one of those people (whom) everybody you speak to just raves about. Corliss (Williamson) was with us in Toronto for sixth months (while) I was on the staff, and he’s a great person.
“Also, I’m excited (about being in) the Sacramento market. I know there’s AAA baseball, but the Kings are the main attraction and the main focus of all the fans… I look forward to hopefully helping bring back the good old days, so to speak, as far as the atmosphere in (the arena).”
What excites you about the current Kings roster?
“What excites me is the youth and that we have players who want to work. They’re hungry to win and to prove they can get better. It’s what we noticed, even with the (veteran) guys coming in – Isaiah (Thomas), Jimmer (Fredette), Marcus (Thornton) and Jason (Thompson) were down at Summer League and DeMarcus (Cousins) came in, as well. Obviously, with Ben (McLemore) and Ray (McCallum), they’re young and working hard. So you have a bunch of guys who I really think are tired of not winning. We have the chance to build something the organization and fans can be proud of.”
Being around the game for so long, how would you characterize the best practices to prepare for opponents?
“I think the schedule dictates the type of prep you do, and the less time you have to get ready, the more the focus shifts on your execution defensively, your principles offensively and then energy – just making sure guys are rested and have fresh legs in there. The more time you have you can spend prepping for a particular opponent.
“With back-to-backs, you have to narrow it down and really pick out the top-10 percent of what the opponent is doing because you just don’t have the time. You’re trying to help players as much as you can during the game and leading up to it if they have any questions as far as the prep – which way guys are going to go, what they’re running, how they correlate to us defensively.
“When you have a day in between, you want to talk to them about the game you just played, and then start focusing on the next opponent. So you can start implementing some things – go over a couple of sets, what they’re going to do defensively and how we’re going to combat it. Now, instead of that 10 percent, you can get up to 40 percent.
“Then, when you have a stretch where you have two days in between, you can give them almost every bit of it. You can actually play against your opponent’s sets in practice and you can play it live rather than just in walkthrough situations.”
How much time do you devote to watching game film of each opponent?
“I would say, if you can, you’d like to watch a minimum of the last four or five games of the opponent before we play them. Your advanced (scout) is going to have at least two games within that window where he has been there physically and can get you the times and calls. Within those games, you get a really good feel of what they’re trying to do.
“You also try to find teams which are defending the same way as us. If we’re downing pick-and-rolls and they’re showing, or if we’re not a zone team and we’re more man-to-man, it makes no sense to break down that game.
“Elvis (Valcarcel), our video (coordinator), makes sure we have our film broken down, and he does a great job of getting it to us. Our job as assistant coaches is to take the plethora of information, filter it down and make sure we give the nuts and bolts of what they’re trying to do to Coach Malone.
“Coach Malone probably watches more film than even we do, but you don’t want to waste his time with things that aren’t important. So (we focus on) what they’re going to do in (a particular) situation (or) what they’re going to do late-game, and then he can decipher how he wants to attack them come game-time.”
Which other tools do you find beneficial in pregame preparation?
“There’s a program called ‘FastScout’ – the best way to describe it is it’s just like an organizer for all of your scouting reports. It’s set up a lot like your iTunes library, so you can have a playlist, you can search by team, search by year, sort by coaches – however you want. That’s what we use to build our templates and save everything.
“‘FastDraw’ is another one, where you draw up all the opponent’s plays. It’s the same type of (set-up) – you can have the full playbook, you can sort it by the top-10 plays they run the most, pick-and-rolls, post-ups, late-game (situations) or again by coach.
“The video format we use is ‘SportsCode.’ It’s how you can really break things down offensively and defensively. You can break it down to as much as who took the shot – you can look at their makes, misses and all types of (ways).
“The other thing we have is ‘Synergy,’ and it’s more of a statistical analysis, as well as video. It will break down which way guys go – such as Kobe (Bryant) goes left 53 percent of the time, and when he does, he’s at 1.2 points per possession. So you can see tendencies and tell guys what players are going to do in situations.
“(We also have) just a simple Word document that you can use to build tables for bench reports, meaning kind of like your cheat sheet.”
When did you first realize you were interested in coaching?
“My dad was a high school football, baseball and basketball coach, and I’ve always loved competition. I knew I wanted to coach in any sport (after college), but (mainly) basketball or baseball. When the opportunity came to work in the NBA, which is probably the greatest League in the world, if you ask me, (I took it).”
Coming from a baseball background, how did you first get your foot in the door in the NBA?
“Like most people, I played basketball and football growing up, but I was a better baseball player coming out of high school. I got a scholarship to play baseball at Indiana, and then once I graduated, I went to Miami (Ohio) for one year as a grad assistant for baseball.
“Then, I came back home, and Butch Carter, who was the head coach in Toronto, asked me if I wanted to come up and intern with the Raptors. He’s from my hometown of Middleton, Ohio. I told him I played baseball for the last four years and I’d been out of the basketball loop. He said, ‘It’s about relationships, hard work and getting guys to play hard. I can teach you the nuances of the NBA. I’m not going to ask you to teach Vince Carter how to shoot jumpshots.’ I lived with him for two years in Toronto and I just took notes, listened and learned.
“I’ve been very fortunate and appreciative of all the people who’ve helped me along the way. I’ve been fortunate to get good advice and I’ve been able to get some breaks here and there and been able to prove my work ethic and my abilities. The whole path I’ve taken, I look back and everyone always jokes, ‘Oh, you’re a baseball guy!’ I love baseball, as well, but now I’m almost 40 years old and this will be my 16th year. I’ve been doing this more so than I even played baseball!”
In addition to your father, who’ve been some of your coaching role models?
“Butch Carter was very good as far as Xs and Os and preparation … he was a great basketball mind. I’m fortunate I worked with Lenny Wilkens, who’s one of the winningest coaches of all time and a great person who gave me a lot of freedom to learn, expand and pick his mind. Kevin O’Neill is probably one of the best defensive coaches in basketball – he learned under (Jeff) Van Gundy – so I was lucky to work with him. Sam Mitchell played a lot of years in the NBA, so I learned from a player’s perspective how to deal with players. Jay Triano is a guy a lot like myself, who never played in the NBA, but got his break through hard work and is a great offensive-minded coach. And then I (worked with) Dwayne Casey, who’s been at every level in basketball, won a championship in Dallas and is a defensive-minded coach, as well.
“The one constant is I’ve been able to work with people who cared about me, who were willing to help me, were willing to share and were willing to answer questions. I would say I’ve taken something from all of them.”
How would you describe yourself off the court?
“I’m a lot more low-key – I like to have fun, I like to joke around, I’m probably more sarcastic than I should be. I try to be a father and a husband, which sounds crazy, but you’re working 14 to 16 hours a day, and especially during the season, you’re in basketball mode. I just enjoy watching my kids grow up.
“I have three brothers and sisters, my mother and father and my in-laws are all healthy, so family is a big part of what I do. When I do have time, I try to spend it with family rather than friends, because my time is so consumed with basketball.”