Shootaround Access: Wolves at Lakers | Nov. 10, 2013

Shootaround Access: Wolves at Lakers

Mark Madsen played six seasons for the Wolves beginning during the 2003-04 season. He joined the Lakers' coaching staff in July and is bringing that same energy to coaching as he did as a player. (David Sherman/NBAE/Getty Images)

Madsen Bringing Energy As Lakers' Player Development Coach

Mark Madsen was only on the job as the Los Angeles D-Fenders’ head coach for a couple weeks when he got a proposition from Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak. Kupchak asked Madsen, the former Lakers and Timberwolves big man who has joined the coaching ranks since retiring in 2009, this summer if he wanted to make the quick jump from the team’s D-League affiliate up to the NBA in a Lakers player development coach role.

Madsen talked with Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni about the prospect of joining his staff, then had the weekend to make up his mind. And while he was mulling over staying in the D-League or making the jump, D’Antoni made one last move.

He sent a well-placed text.

“The text message said, ‘We’re excited for you to come up and join the Lakers, and remember: The shrimp cocktail tastes better with the big boys,’” Madsen said, laughing. “When he sent me that text, I said, ‘This guy is cool, man. This guy is a really cool guy, and he knows the game and we’re going to win games.’ I said, I want to join.”

Tonight at Staples Center, Madsen will be court side on D’Antoni’s staff as the only two teams he played for in his nine-year NBA career face off. The Wolves and Lakers tip at 8:30 p.m. CT on Fox Sports North and 830 WCCO-AM.

Madsen is still revered as one of the nicest and most energetic players in Wolves history. He joined the team in 2003-04 after three years and a couple rings with the Lakers, and he quickly made an impact with Minnesota’s 58-win squad that earned the top spot in the West and made a run to the 2004 Western Conference Finals. His energy and enthusiasm for the game shined through in his play, and anyone who recalls that season—and his subsequent five years with the Wolves—knows the type of character he brought to the team.

Former teammate Fred Hoiberg called Madsen a “glue guy” this summer, a guy who helped bring an extra needed intangible to his team. Now, as a coach in the NBA, he’s trying to bring that same energy. He and Larry Lewis were hired at the same time as L.A.’s player development staff.

Madsen retired in 2009 and spent a little time starting his coaching career in the D-League before going to grad school and joining up in a coaching capacity with the Stanford University men’s basketball team. With the Cardinal, Madsen’s playing philosophy transitioned into coaching well due to the similar mindset toward the game by coach Johnny Dawkins.

“He had a saying that he would reiterate and repeat, and it goes something like this: ‘Nothing great has ever been accomplished without tremendous energy and enthusiasm,’” Madsen said. “I think there are times when it’s easy to get out of bed and you might not have the energy, might not have the pace or the desire. But then you say, ‘Hey, I need to ramp up my energy, ramp up my enthusiasm.’ That can atone for a lot of sins in the basketball world.”

It’s been 10 years since the Wolves’ 2003-04 run, and Madsen still recalls it like it was yesterday. He rallies off the names of his teammates from that year—not just “the heart and soul” of Kevin Garnett, the All-Star play of Sam Cassell and the scoring threat of Latrell Sprewell, but also the complementary play of Wally Szczerbiak, Ervin Johnson, Michael Olowokandi and Fred Hoiberg. Madsen reveres Hoiberg as one of the most underrated players in league history because of his ability to shoot the 3 but also his ability to rebound the basketball from the wing: “[It]’s a lost art,” Madsen said.

Madsen’s energy as a bench role player was an art in and of itself, too. You could tell when Madsen was on the court because of how he approached the game and the way the crowd fed off his play. And when he took this job with D’Antoni’s staff, his passion for the game shined through once again.

“We had a great conversation, and [D’Antoni] said, ‘We’re going to win a lot of games, and we’re going to have fun in the process,’” Madsen said. “That resonated with me, because basketball is fun.”

As for the shrimp cocktail? He’s more of a walleye guy. That’s probably another reason he fit in so well in Minnesota.

“I don’t eat a lot of shrimp cocktail, anyway,” Madsen said. “But they do have a ton of it on the [team] plane.”

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