McCrabb: Middletown’s Micah Nori makes name in NBA

Fred Nori is a Baseball Guy.

A standout player at Indiana University, Nori was drafted by the New York Mets and later coached baseball at Middletown and Fenwick high schools.

It would be easy to assume his two sons, Micah and Brady, would be Baseball Boys. Both of them made their marks on the baseball diamond.

Micah, a three-sport athlete at Fenwick and Middletown, played baseball at Indiana University where he was captain and middle infielder. He finished with a .305 batting average, 20 home runs, 127 RBI, 116 runs, 35 doubles and 18 stolen bases.

His younger brother, Brady, a 1997 Middletown graduate, played first base at Miami University, and led all RedHawk batters at the 2001 MAC baseball tournament with a .480 batting average.

Brady was inducted into the Butler County Sports Hall of Fame last year, joining his brother and father.

Baseball is stitched in the Noris’ DNA tighter than those threads on a ball.

But it’s a different sport that has shined the national spotlight on Micah, 50.

“I can’t believe it’s basketball,” his father said with a laugh. “He’s a 6-foot-1 kid without a jump shot.”

When relayed what was said about Nori’s lack of shooting ability, Mark Kerns, a former basketball coach at Middletown High, said: “I don’t know. I never saw him shoot.”

Kerns said Nori served as statistician on the junior varsity basketball team.

“That’s crazy,” Kerns said.

The trajectory of Micah’s career changed following a 1998 phone call from Butch Carter, a standout Middletown basketball player who starred at Indiana University and in the NBA.

Carter, a friend of the Nori family and newly hired coach of the Toronto Raptors, called Fred and asked if he thought Micah would be interested in joining his staff as an intern. That was 26 years, thousands of airline miles and countless nights in hotel rooms ago.

Nori spent 10 years as an advance scout, and his first job as an NBA assistant was on the Raptors’ coaching staff. He has been an assistant coach since 2009, with stops in Toronto, Sacramento, Denver, Detroit, and for the last three years, Minnesota.

His coaching stock rose after Minnesota’s head coach, Chris Finch, ruptured the patellar tendon in his right knee during the sweep of the Phoenix Suns. Nori, the lead assistant, took over for Finch as he recovered from the injury. The Timberwolves are playing the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference finals.

The winner of that series faces the winner of the Boston Celtics vs. Indiana Pacers series for the NBA Championship.

Nori’s name has been connected to head coaching positions, including the Los Angeles Lakers.

“It’s been a fun ride,” said Fred Nori. “It’s really unbelievable.”

Kerns said he’s not surprised by Nori’s success.

“When good people stay persistent, good things happen,” he said.

Nori said he has watched more NBA games the last two years than he did his entire life. Meanwhile, Sara, his wife of 55 years, never misses a Minnesota game on TV.

The Nori family has a long history in the Middletown community, and their last name has always been pronounced NOR-eye.

But announcers in Minnesota, and throughout the NBA, pronounce it NOR-ee. Fred said that’s the Italian pronunciation.

He doesn’t care how his last name is pronounced, he said.

Nori, 81, may hear his family’s last name called early in the upcoming Major League Baseball Draft.

The family has produced another standout baseball player. Micah and his wife, Melissa, have two children, Dante and Mia.

Dante, a senior outfielder at Northville (Mich.) High School, is ranked 49th among’s top draft prospects. He’s expected to be selected in the early rounds in this year’s MLB Draft, though he has signed with Mississippi State.

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