CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – A Butler University reunion near the campus of the University of North Carolina? Well, that was unexpected.
So says Ron Nored, who enjoyed the reunion dinner Thursday night in Chapel, Hill, North Carolina.
Nored is one of seven former Bulldogs, along with Celtics head coach Brad Stevens, who happened to be in Chapel Hill for Friday’s preseason matchup between the Celtics and the Hornets at UNC’s Dean Smith Center. The game created the perfect opportunity for many of Butler’s most famous alumni to break bread in the most unlikely of places.
Six members of the teams that reached the 2010 and 2011 national championship games, and one more who overlapped with many of them, linked up for dinner to share smiles and stories. Stevens and Nored, who is now an assistant coach for the Hornets, were two of the seven. The rest of the crew was made up by former Butler assistant coach and current Celtics assistant coach Micah Shrewsberry, former Butler point guard and current Celtics/Red Claws coach Alex Barlow, Celtics star forward Gordon Hayward, and two other guards from the famous Bulldogs teams, Grant Leiendecker and Alex Anglin, each of whom live in the Raleigh-Durham area.
Nored did his best to explain how weird, yet fun, it was to get the crew back together.
“I did not (expect this to happen at UNC), and it’s pretty weird being on the other sideline from these guys,” he said. “But it’s cool that we got to be together and hang out and share some old stories.”
Those stories? They could write a book.
Nored recalled one passage that took place following an early-season game in 2009, the same season that ended with Butler’s first NCAA championship game.
“One of the stories that came out [Thursday] night at dinner was that Gordon remembered we lost to Georgetown at Madison Square Garden our sophomore year, got embarrassed,” Nored said with a smile. “After the game, I had like a 20-minute tirade to our team. The game got brought up [Thursday] and Gordon was like, ‘Bro, you went off on us for 20 minutes.’ And Brad was outside the locker room – the coaches stayed outside, they didn’t come in.
“And apparently (Jim) Harbaugh – Harbaugh was with (Tom) Crean because IU played next (and Crean and Harbaugh are in-laws) – and Harbaugh was like, ‘Man, that young coach (Stevens) is getting after these guys.’ And Brad was like, ‘No, I’m right here. That’s one of our players.’”
Amid some chuckles, Nored said the crew dropped a few other secretive stories on their former coaches during the dinner.
“Some of the good ones were when we told Brad about things we did while we were in college that he didn’t know about,” he said, grinning. “I think he was probably not that shocked about it.”
Nored and Hayward were two key cogs in the group’s first trip to the title game. They also happened to be roommates on the road for their first two collegiate seasons. After their sophomore season, their careers darted in very different directions.
Hayward declared for the 2010 NBA Draft and was chosen ninth overall by the Utah Jazz. He went on to become an All-Star in Utah before joining Boston during the summer of 2017.
Nored, meanwhile, began to feel a gravitation toward coaching.
Beginning with his junior year, Nored recalls, Stevens and Shrewsberry began grooming him to eventually join the coaching ranks. And just two short years later, in 2013, Stevens hired Nored to coach with the Celtics and the Maine Red Claws. Nored quickly rose up the coaching ranks and in May landed a position on James Borrego’s staff in Charlotte.
Prior to coaching against his mentor Friday night as a member of the Hornets, Nored couldn’t stop himself from gushing about what Stevens taught him along the way.
“I learned more from that guy than anybody else in my life, and for him to kind of mold that and empower me has really helped me in my own career,” he said. “I am who I am in coaching because of how I was mentored in college and since then.”
Stevens, meanwhile, raved about what he saw in Nored from Day 1.
“Anybody that’s ever been around Ron knows he was born to lead,” said Stevens, who also mentioned that Nored lived at his house for half the time Nored worked in Boston. “He just has an unbelievable ambition to him and he loves the game, but he loves being around people and being a part of a team even more. He’s one of the best leaders I’ve ever coached or been around.”
With a leader like that in the point guard slot, and with a talented star like Hayward alongside him, under the tutelage of Stevens, it’s no wonder why the 2010 Butler Bulldogs shocked the basketball world by nearly capturing an NCAA trophy.
Many of the relationships that fueled that run were forged back in 2008 in Indianapolis. Who would have ever thought that a decade later, in Chapel Hill of all places, much of the band would get back together for one more pregame meal, this time, as opponents?
addByline("Marc D'Amico", "Celtics.com", "Marc_DAmico");