Mark “Mad Dog” Madsen, former Los Angeles Laker, reminisces about his favorite basketball moments with Andy and shares how transitioned from player to coach.
After attending Stanford, Mark played power forward for the Los Angeles Lakers during the Lakers’ back-to-back championship season 2001-02. He finished his playing career with the Minnesota Timerwolves in 2009. He played under the legendary Phil Jackson and alongside both Shaq and Kobe in the Lakers’ golden years.
“I think Shaq is one of those really once in a generation human beings. Number one, I mean, the generosity, the love of life, the ability to connect with people across all cultural backgrounds, the love of helping others,” Mark said.
As a player, Mark recalls Kobe’s tenacity and the impact his performance had on the team. Mark explains how Kobe’s Mamba Mentality and aspirations for greatness impact his coaching style today.
“Kobe was all about excellence. He pushed himself harder than anyone. He was harder on himself than anyone else. He sought excellence in his craft. I admire that,” Mark said. “I think about what he did and I say, ‘okay, as a coach, you know, instead of watching four game films, I’m going to try to watch six.’ Because Kobe instead of making 500 shots, he’s making 2,000, he’s doing it at five in the morning, before anyone shows up.”
Mark and Andy were both first-hand witnesses to the Shaq-Kobe relationship of the early 2000s and how it shaped the Lakers team dynamics. He describes a moment during a playoffs game with the San Antonio Spurs:
“A high point in the relationship to me was when we were playing at the San Antonio Spurs. We went out there and we won two games on the road in the Alamodome in San Antonio, and people were shocked. During or right after that series publicly, Kobe went off, Kobe played great. Shaq came out publicly and said ‘Kobe is the best player in the universe.’ And then Kobe turned around and said, ‘Shaq is the most dominant player on the planet.’ And this was done over TV, and I’m sitting there in the hotel room watching this unfold and, and I was happy because, you know, it was just a recognition of public recognition of each other’s talent. From that point forward, their relationship was really moving forward in a good way.”
In 2009, Mark became assistant coach of the NBA’s D-league team the Utah Flash and later an assistant coach for Stanford. He spent a season as coach of the Los Angeles D-fenders then returned to the Lakers as assistant coach from 2013-19.
During this time with the Lakers, Mark played under Phil Jackson where he learned the famed Triangle Offense.
“The triangle was such a mythical thing. When I was at Stanford, I read one of Phil’s books, and he talked all about the triangle. And I wanted to learn it so badly. Then I got drafted to the Lakers. The enigma of the triangle is that it is extremely complicated, but at the same time, it’s very simplistic also.
“I was in the NBA based on hard work and effort, as much as I worked to try to have the same level of talent or a similar talent as Kobe or Shaq, I didn’t have that. But I had work ethic and I had energy and I had effort. I think those things translated to the triangle because you could then read things yourself and create for others.”
As a coach, he still uses the triangle offense tactic despite the recent changes in the style of professional basketball.
“The players love that. Because there’s structure within freedom, freedom within structure. Now, the only bad thing about the triangle in today’s game is it. Some of the actions are being generated for long two point shots. The game has really moved to the three point line. I talked to Phil about that and he made a great point; you can tweak the triangle to generate more threes. We actually shot a ton of threes in the early 2000s. Phil was ahead of his time in so many ways, including the fact that we got a lot of open threes,” Mark said.
In addition to the triangle, Mark explains how Phil’s coaching style went beyond the court. Coach Jackson was known to give players books for enrichment and to use zen and Buddhist teachings during his famed locker room talks.
“He recognized life was bigger than basketball. He was a person of deep spiritual spirituality, in terms of the Buddhist influence and, in a way preached karma. He was big on life lessons,” Mark said.
Mark currently serves as head coach for Utah Valley University. He coached through the unprecedented 2020 pandemic season and credits his players with their maturity and resilience.
“They were resilient. We had some practices, Andy, where we were staying eight to ten feet away sanitizing the basketballs every 20 minutes…there were so many different things we had to do and put into place in order to be able to practice. I felt bad for the players in our program during those times. Now, we came together and had a great season. We’re very fortunate in that sense,” Mark said.
Hear Mark talk about his memorable “one shoe” game, his thoughts on Thanksgiving Days with Shaq, and much more.