'Mad Dog' Returns
Photo: Art Streiber
By Sam Scott
It may not be March Madness, but this June is shaping up to be a month to remember for Mark Madsen, one of the legends of Stanford basketball. Not only is “Mad Dog” getting his MBA from the Graduate School of Business, but Madsen, ’00, was just announced as an assistant coach for the Cardinal men’s basketball team.
During Madsen’s time on the team, the men went 105-24, won two Pac-10 titles, and earned the team’s first No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. One of the great moments in college basketball history is Madsen’s 1998 Elite Eight dunk with 26 seconds left; that basket helped send the Cardinal to the Final Four.
We caught up with the unfailingly polite nine-year NBA veteran. Excerpts:
Congratulations on a busy month. Now that you’re a college coach about to get an MBA, are you still “Mad Dog”?
If it’s a player or a coach from the NBA, that’s a term that is still alive and well. If I am walking through the business school, it’s alive and well with maybe two of my 375 classmates. So it kind of depends on the context and the circumstance.
You’ll always be remembered for that ’98 Elite Eight match, when the team came back from the brink against Rhode Island [Stanford lost in the Final Four to Kentucky, 86-85]. It's only a click away on You Tube. Do you ever watch that game?
You know, I actually went back probably about a year ago and I watched it I think for the first or possibly the second time. What really jumped out to me was how Arthur Lee [’99] never gave up and how [Coach] Mike Montgomery never gave up. Those two guys kept on going. I think that lifted the rest of the group to say ‘Hey, we’re still in this thing even though we’re down a lot of points with like two minutes left.’”
How does that experience rank in your playing career, which of course includes two championships with the Los Angeles Lakers?
The Final Four was such a special time for me because of the camaraderie I felt in terms of [they’re] not only guys you’re playing on the same team with, but guys where you’re in the same classroom.
I’ll never forget being in the same religious studies class with Jason and Jarron Collins [both ’01], with Arthur Lee, with Ryan Mendez [’00]. We were in a class called Fiction in the Bible, the Bible in Fiction. It’s one thing to take the court together and try to win a game, it’s another thing to all be in a class together, and then it’s another thing altogether to know their families really well, the parents and the siblings of all of your college teammates.
I am not trying to take anything away from the professional experience because the championships with the Lakers, those were very unique in their own way. But I look back with a lot of good feeling in terms of my undergraduate experience here at Stanford.
You coached for a year in the NBA’s Development League after the end of your playing career. How does coaching compare to playing?
As a player, if you slip [up] or if you get emotional, you’ve got four other teammates on the court who can calm you down, or you might be the one calming someone else down. You go to the bench. You can zone out for 30 seconds and just drink water. When you’re on the coaching staff, you really can’t do that. You have to mentally always be on.
I like that mental aspect of the game and the fact that you’ve always got to be prepared, ready and thinking.
What drew you back to get your MBA?
I put my deposit down for the GSB back in April of 2010 and between the time I put my deposit down and September 10, there were some very interesting opportunities in the basketball world that I almost took. It was a really soul-searching time for me.
I just ended up thinking in my mind that I want to get as much education as possible and that’s kind of the thought that kept running through my head. It was a step I wasn’t sure about, but I will say this, from the first day, and every day that’s passed, I’ve become more and more sure that I absolutely, for me, made the right decision. I loved the GSB. I loved my experience.
How did you get involved with Stanford basketball again?
[Men’s head coach] Johnny Dawkins and one of his assistant coaches, Mike Schrage, and I had some conversations early on about the possibility of me being involved in a limited way while I was in school. So when that presented itself I felt really excited inside, I felt good, I felt happy and I took those as being great signs of just continuing to explore what I want to do post-playing career.
And that culminated this past summer when Johnny invited me to join the team on a tour of Spain to play against professional teams. I had an absolute blast. I really bonded with the coaching staff, really bonded with the players.
I really felt good after that trip and I felt inclined to continue the conversation with Johnny.
What is your role with the team?
Obviously, in terms of player development, working with the big guys, sharing with them some of the insights that I learned in the NBA from some of my many mentors like Robert Horry, Horace Grant, Shaquille, Kevin Garnett. I hope to be able to transmit a lot of what they taught me directly to our current guys, who are a very talented group.
I look at the current players on the team, I look at Josh Huestis [’14], I look at a Dwight Powell [’14], and I remember back to when I was back in their exact shoes, going to class, going to practice and playing games. And just the balance it requires.
When I was here as a student, the coaching staff [included] Eric Reveno [’88, MBA ’95] who had actually been an undergraduate at Stanford and he had a graduate degree at Stanford and then he was on the coaching staff. So I had Eric as a sounding board. I hope I can be a sounding board for a lot of the younger players as they come into Stanford just in terms of balance. At this particular institution, you know you’re going to be challenged in the classroom and you know you’re going to be challenged on the court.
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