For his part, Madsen said he’s wanted to coach since he read John Wooden’s book, "They Call Me Coach," as a kid. He combs through advanced stats, admits to thinking about plays as he falls asleep at night (some nights, he clarified, not all) and has kept every playbook but one he’s ever received. There are the connections, too, from Phil Jackson to Kevin McHale to Flip Saunders, all major names in the NBA who have informed Madsen’s career and can also now serve as resources. It’s a lot to bring to the table, but with a resume like his and a network of connections so prominent, it’s impossible not to surmise that this isn’t Madsen’s ultimate goal.
And it’s not. He’ll admit it: His goal is the NBA, and after getting his MBA while serving as an assistant coach at Stanford, Madsen decided the D-League was the next step in that path. For now, it’s all about the D-Fenders, of course, but even in that singular focus, Madsen can’t help but see that his job now is connected to the job he eventually wants. He’s already been looking at the D-League’s website, he said, counting the players in the NBA with experience in the lower league. The number is greater than 150.
“You take those … players with D-League experience, and you interpolate their salaries, and there are hundreds of millions of dollars in (salaries of) current NBA players that were developed or have some aspect of their development in the D-League,” Madsen said. “That says a lot about the D-League, and it says a lot about the NBA.”
Mark Madsen is back, with vague promises of dancing and a clear-cut picture of what he needs to achieve in his new role. For the Lakers, a team that has never been known to build through the draft but that could have huge roster holes in 2013-14, Madsen might play a larger role than his title and the relative obscurity of the team he’s leading might suggest. He’s part of a larger infrastructure, one with perhaps the most inherent pressure in the NBA and the expectations to match.
And so he’ll reminisce about the time he pulled up to the team’s facilities in 2000, wearing khaki pants and driving a minivan. He’ll joke about how Shaq tried to make over his image, and he’ll drop names and inspirational quotes from the biggest names in the game. Sounds like a bit much, one might think, for the D-League, but that’s far from the truth.
Madsen’s career – how much he did with how little, and the precise role he played – will inform what he does with the D-Fenders, as will his connections. As the minor league system in the NBA becomes more integrated, he’s poised himself well to not only help the Lakers, but benefit from it as well.