Prodigal Son

Dave Murphy —  May 15, 2013

One of the funner bits of recent Lakers-related news is the hiring of Mark Madsen as the new head coach of the Los Angeles D-Fenders. The mere mention of Madsen’s name is invariably accompanied by references to his victory parade dance but the essence of the player was always his hustle and determination. Dubbed Mad Dog at Stanford, the tag carried over to his NBA career. It was in college however, that the iconic crash-and-burn reputation was made. Madsen routinely left it all on the floor during his four years at The Farm, helping the Cardinals to four straight NCAA appearances and making it to the final four in 1998. He was the 29th pick by the Lakers in the 2000 draft.

Mark Madsen’s nine seasons in the NBA were somewhat more measured than his collegiate years, he accepted the roles given him, played effectively, listened and learned. The true Mad Dog moments didn’t come as often but they existed, often inspired when larger opposing players tried to muscle him off the block. Madsen would get that familiar bug-eyed look and a real low center of gravity – the man was capable of clearing some room. The two-time NBA champion signed as a free agent with the Timberwolves for the 2003-04 season, played six seasons, was traded to the Clippers and waived. Madsen was an assistant coach for the D-League’s Utah Flash in 2009-10 and returned to Stanford the following year to get his MBA. He segued into an assistant coaching position for Cardinals this past season and now returns to the place where his NBA career began, shepherding  players who toil on the fringes and ball for the love of the game, hoping to some day get their shot.

It’s been pointed out that the Lakers have to play the hand they’ve been dealt next season, there’s simply not a lot of other options considering current salary obligations and the new CBA. Given the obvious constraints, it’s not a bad thing to have a D-League resource that you literally share the house with – the D-Fenders practice and play at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, home to the Lakers practice and training facilities as well as management offices. The team was created by Dr. Jerry Buss in 2006 and was always envisioned as a satellite operation that could potentially pay major dividends at some point down the line. Buss, who passed away this past February, handed the D-League reins to his son Joey five years ago. The CEO/President of the D-Fenders has instituted a number of significant changes, including melding Lakers and D-Fenders benefits for fans and season ticket holders.

For the most part, player movement between the big and little brother halves of the organization has been a matter of seasoning – Devin Ebanks, Darius Morris and Robert Sacre have each served recent stints with the minor league affiliate. Going back a few years, Jordan Farmar was the first player to suit up for a D-league and NBA game on the same day. So far, there hasn’t been much reciprocity – the Lakers most significant recent call up was Andrew Goudelock, by way of the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. This isn’t to say that the D-Fenders haven’t had any success placing players in the NBA. During the 2011-12 season, a record six players were recruited by 11 different teams. Included in the mix was former slam-dunk champ Gerald Green who got a New Jersey Nets call-up that year and is currently a key member of Indiana Pacers bench and one win away from the Eastern Finals.

The D-Fenders have had a bit of an uneven ride with coaches, general managers and even seasons in their entirety – they took all of 2010-11 off for some organizational housekeeping. Past head coaches have included Dan Panaggio, Chucky Brown, Eric Musselman (named 2012 D-League Coach of the Year) and Reggie Theus. This coming season will mark a new chapter – the naming of Coach Madsen was made official at a press conference yesterday.

Is Madsen the right man for the job? Predicting the future in sports is a risky proposition – the Lakers 2012-13 season stands as evidence of that fact. Still there’s a lot to be said for attitude and for varied life experiences. Remember, this is the guy who dedicated two years to missionary work before declaring for the draft. And then were the years spent absorbing wisdom from another spiritually-minded former power forward with deadly elbows – somebody nicknamed Action Jackson. Perhaps the real question isn’t whether Mad Dog can succeed within the D-League’s bubble but whether he can pay it upward to the Lakers – big brother might need a dime or two next season.

Dave Murphy


29 responses to Prodigal Son

  1. This puts a smile to my face. Welcome back Mad Dog. I’m curious to see what his demeanor will be like on the sidelines. Will he play it cool like Phil, or will he be that energetic cheerleader he was in his playing days? My guess is that he will try to play it cool at first, but if one of his players makes a buzzer beating game winner, he won’t be able to contain himself, and will burst out in dance.

  2. It´s good to have a good-natured and basketball-loving person within the organization;
    good luck to you Mad Dog

  3. Welcome home Mad Dog

  4. dave m: props to mark madsen you call the prodigal son. he’ got that crooked dance step with arms flailing but looks like a guy with laker feet firmly planted on the ground and head and eyes firmly focused forward. a young, high energy type guy is what i get when thinking back on his college and nba basketball career. let’s all hope for the best for this forward focused, arms flailing, crooked dance step guy affectionately known as mad dog.

    go lakers

  5. No disrespect to Dave, but how sad that we’re midway through the conference semis and the best news we can find associated with the Lakers organization involves changes to the minor league team’s coaching staff.

    We should all be praying that the front office can work some moves to right the ship this summer, so this time next year we can hopefully be reading about the Lakers’ chances of making it out of the west. Odds are long, but we can hope…

  6. Chris: no diss taken at all. In reality though, we’re entering a new CBA era that will make in-house incubators like the D-Fenders increasingly valuable from a strategic standpoint. Whether it actually works or not is anybody’s guess but the model we’ve operated from in the past will no longer work.

  7. Parrothead Phil May 15, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    Not to be too nit-picky, but it is the Stanford Cardinal. Not the Cardinals. It references the color red, not the bird.

  8. PP – Well okay, I stand corrected. It used to be plural and was changed to singular by Donald Kennedy in 1981. My bad.

  9. Celtics down 20+ in the 4th against the Knicks to come back and make it a respectable loss. Bulls down by 15 early to Miami and lead in the 3rd. Lakers could learn a lot from these two teams with defense and heart. Fight to the very end instead of rolling over like 2011, 2012 and 2013.

  10. So… Kings staying in SacTo. Not sure if good or bad. Initial reaction is that this is bad. I’d rather see the franchise move to Seattle. I know they blew it in the past, but the economy up there is better than it has ever been, the downtown scene is outstanding, and lots of folks from all over the country have moved up there to work for some pretty prominent tech giants. In short, you have people who would want to go to games, if only to root for their home team. Sacramento on the other hand… well…. it’s better than Stockton I guess.

  11. Craig W: Thanks for the response in the previous thread. I do not dispute much of your post. My views are well known – you must admit I am consistent and I do not flip flop : ) I also agree that many of my wishes will not come true. I have the utmost respect for Jerry Buss and he probably did have good reasons for doing what he did in terms of Jim vs. Jeanie and whatever influence he had in not bringing back Phil. That said it has been 3 years since we have been to the finals, and when you speak about building through the draft, it could be a few more before we are back. This would make this one of the longest droughts for the Lakers in the entire history of the NBA. Were we just lucky before? Or perhaps we are not executing as well now as we did before? In any case, I agree with you, I don’t care who is coach if we win a banner. However I am a poker player and I go with the odds. If one guy has won 11 rings and another zero, not a big decision. If an organization has made it to the finals in almost 50% of the years that the NBA has existed and we don’t for an extended period, I am going to ask the obvious. What are we doing differently now than we did before? If the answer is that we have a different owner and a different coach, then I am questioning that. I think it is easy to see the logic there. In any case – we want the same things – so I appreciate your post. I will always root for the team – regardless of who is the coach, who is on the court, or how well dressed the owner is : )

  12. rr: “Kupchak should talk to Howard about D’Antoni” Well yea – however Mitch basically said that he would not do that and DH is not the best communicator either. So that leaves us to guess whether MD is a positive or a negative toward signing DH. I have my guess : ) With regard to Fisher – yes the comments do seem to vary greatly depending on Fisher’s stats. Fortunately some us are on record with regard to this issue before DF played one game for anyone else other than the Lakers. So stats have no bearing on that. For those who missed it – DF should have retired a Laker. He is part of our family. If he was removed to make room for Chris Paul – that would have been fine. Darius Morris not so much. However since we are bringing back Mad Dog, perhaps there is hope for our organization. While I am wishing for things that won’t happen, let’s hope for Jeanie as owner, Pat Riley as GM, Phil as coach, Shaw and Scott as bench coaches, and Barnes and Shannon Brown on our bench. I like our odds better with that group. But that is just me : )

  13. Fortunately some us are on record with regard to this issue before DF played one game for anyone else other than the Lakers.

    Not all that relevant to my point, IMO. Like I said, if you just want Fisher around because you like him and what he represents, fine. But on the floor, he was part of the problem by 2012, not part of the solution.

    As to Kupchak, I wouldn’t necessarily go by what he says to the media on that issue.

  14. Beautiful to watch skillful bigs assert their will on teams. If Dwight had a lick of footwork and touch I have no doubt he could dominate frontlines. But it’s not all about dunking. Randolph is absolutely schooling Perkins, Ibaka and Collison and he’s the least athletic of the bunch.

    A prime example for D’Antoni to run a similar offense and Dwight to be effective on the block if they watch Memphis.

  15. OMG. Please..please let’s not rehash the Fisher talk. It took 2 years to calm that topic down. That ship sailed. Like Robert said, many here have already spoken volumes on their Fisher opinions. Let’s move on to more important items, please.

  16. The way he works for position to post, position to rebound, footwork and touch. Everything Lakers fans want out of Dwight on offense, Randolph has. Dwight should swallow some pride and workout with Randolph in the summer.

  17. all the experts have lamented how inefficient Kobe is and what a ball hog and an offense killer that he is, but KD suddenly isn’t looking any better after 5/20 in 47minutes so far…

    it really does take help in the NBA. without Harden and Westbrook, KD looks like a ball hog and a volume shooter.

    since his job is to score points, i have no problen with KD lofting shots, just like Kobe. not everyone on the team should be shooting. there are always one or two players who are expectewd to put it up at any opportunity. if there are no other threats in the offense, it’s usually in vain, but that doesn’t mean that the shooter/scorer is expected to give up. more and more i’n convinced that being right on the internet is more important than the actual reality of the game.

    i am appalled that anyone would say that the Lakers gave up this year. the only reason that i am not disgusted with the team this year, is that everything went wrong, and they still played hard once their feet were under them. they didn’t have to get the 7 seed. they could’ve decided it was impossible to make the playoffs at the all star break when half the internet had decided it was impossible. the Lakers ended up missing their entire back court by playoff time. they did the best they could, ultimately.

  18. There was a bit of Dwyer license in that Ball Don’t Lie piece. Reading the text, he seemed more frustrated with the injuries and a little disappointed that the guy who hired him got dumped, rather than “reflecting unkindly” on the season. To put it accurately (in my opinion), he was disappointed (as I think we all were), which is different to what that headline indicates.

    I’m waiting for a spate of “5-21” tweets an articles. Maybe some “Abbott on efficiency” pieces. Not holding my breath….

  19. Mad Dog…Ha…So many memories…The guy looks stupid in the eyes of stupid bball fans. His “lack-of-groove” meant nothing to me. His “lack-of-skills”, because he was looking to the ground before a defense play…All this separates the casual-fan from the true-fan.

    The guy HUSTLES. And that’s what we asked him to do. And he did. The funny dance, he was entitled to do that coz he gave his heart for that title.

    A couple of years later, I’ve got to hear he talking. And he surprised me. The guy is FAR from being naïve. He knows basketball. Not like Pop but he knows a lot more than I thought.

    The D-fenders are in good hands. Good luck to the Mad Dog and don’t ever change. Be yourself..

  20. I refused to criticize MDA this year, because too many injuries happened to Lakers, another example: OKC without Westbrook, this is a team last year was in NBA Finals, now they were lucky not getting sweep in the playoffs because Memphis still is the team on the rise and Memphis making the mistakes in the game 1. During the season, Lakers had 5 starters with injuries, two PG was out , how can you win in the NBA with 2 PG was out ? People forgot that MDA when he took Lakers ‘s job, he could not even walk normally. Some people said Mike Woodson of NY is better than MDA, they forgot why Atlanta letting Woodson go.

  21. Tyler Hansbrough of the Pacers is the new version of Mad Dog LOL

  22. Thanks Vhanz. Very interesting.

  23. kevin this past lakers squad did not roll over…ignorant comment to say the least they scrapped and clawed…you do remember us starting 2 d-league players in the the play offs right? pau is done…i wish guys here would see that he cant jump or run…you have to be able to jump to play basketball…blow the team up or my personal favorite let us jog around leisurely getting run into the ground for another year then hope 2014 brings us good fortune with cap space…still a disgraceful comment

  24. Warren Wee Lim May 16, 2013 at 7:38 am

    I would just like to bring consciousness to everyone about the reality of Dwight leaving. This one will not involve the hints of trade speculation, but instead the real possibility of Dwight leaving as opposed to anything else.

    While Houston remains as the best possible outright destination (youth, athleticism, player coach, James Harden, Dork Elvis)… Dwight’s hometown still offers a unique possibility of pairing him with another superstar in CP3. If them Hawks are creative enough (please don’t ask me) they can even form their own version of a big three: CP3, Dwight and their own free agent Josh Smith. In this way, everyone would be taking tiny paycuts (the politically-correct thing to do if you’re leaving your own team) while contending for years to come as these 2 (or 3) are right about the same age.

    Drafted only a year apart from each other, these 2 can choose either Dallas or Hotlanta as their next destination. Dallas, would have to amnesty Dirk while Atlanta would have to do some creative trading. But they remain possibilities and if you ask me, the Hawks have a very unique opportunity this coming summer.

  25. Warren Wee Lim May 16, 2013 at 8:45 am

    About Mad Dog…

    Really enjoyed his energy. I think his players would love his energy during intense moments. I also picture him hoisting the D-League trophy one day, all soaked up in pink Gatorade and screaming at the top of his lungs.

    That said, I just wish that 15-20 years from now Robert Sacre gets to coach a DL team too.

  26. batman: elimination games haven’t been friendly to the Lakers. Last 3 exits are 16, 21 and 36 point losses. I’ll add what Memphis did last night to that list with Celtics and Bulls. Down early found a way to win the series on the road. A lot of continuity, heart and defense on those teams. Hopefully in the future, maybe as soon as next year, Lakers become a team with those 3 qualities.


    “Jackson’s daughter, Brooke, had been the victim of sexual assault by an athlete in college, and when the Bryant situation occurred, it “triggered all my unprocessed anger and tainted my perception of him,” Jackson said.”

    *” Jackson considers the Lakers’ Game 7 victory over the Boston Celtics in the 2010 NBA Finals the most satisfying of his career.”

    Really Interesting article

  28. to Robert from Craig W.
    The one thing I think most of us tend to forget – the CBA. This contract was negotiated with an aim toward restraining the big market spenders, i.e. the Lakers, in mind. The rules are slanted to make it harder to gather all-stars on one team. I don’t think things are going to work out the way the smaller owners thought they would – see upcoming troubles for OKC and Indiana for possible examples – but there is no question they were taking direct aim on the Lakers.

    What this means is that the Lakers have to change the way they approach building a team. This is not a one-year thing, but takes time to evaluate and adjust. We are in the middle of that and I feel confident that our talented front office will be equal to the task. We may not dominate the NBA like we have in the past, but we will compete.

    For fallow periods see the mid-50s and the mid-to-late-70s for down-periods that lasted much longer than our current drought.