PALO ALTO, Calif. — When you are a single, 34-year-old Mormon millionaire who just retired after nine years in the NBA, what do you do with your life?
Mark "Mad Dog" Madsen is going back to school.
The 6-foot-9, 245-pound forward, who won two world championship rings with the Los Angeles Lakers before signing with the Minnesota Timberwolves, was an assistant coach with the NDBL's Utah Flash for last season before opting to return to Stanford University to earn a master's of business administration.
That's MBA, not NBA.
"Education opens doors," the Eagle Scout said.
When it comes to his NBA career, Madsen may most be remembered for his funky championship-celebration dance moves which live on in youtube.com << www.youtube.com/watch?v=CTRuCPddhbU&feature=related>> lore. While Madsen's lifetime NBA averages of 2.2 points, 2.6 rebounds and just under 12 minutes a game won't get him to the Hall of Fame, his nine-year career is full of meaningful experiences he won't soon forget.
To begin with, lessons he gained from serving the Lord for two years in Spain made a big difference.
"(A mission) required a lot of self-discipline, like getting out of bed early in the morning when you are tired. My faith and testimony also increased so much," Madsen said. "I always tried my very hardest to be a good basketball player, but I realized basketball is not the most important thing in the grand scheme of things."
Madsen returned home to help the Stanford Cardinal to four appearances in the NCAA tournament, including a trip the final four in 1998. The L.A. Lakers selected Madsen with the 29th pick in the 2000 draft.
In the NBA, a player is away from home more than 50 or 60 percent of the time, Madsen estimated. Despite the demanding schedule of an NBA player, he made it a priority to try to read his scriptures every day. He also served in several callings. While in Los Angeles, the towering hoopster with choirboy looks served as an elders quorum instructor and taught Sunday school. In Minnesota, he was a ward missionary and a member of the elders quorum presidency. During his one year with the Utah Flash, he also doubled as the assistant stake athletic director.
"For most of those callings I could do a lot of stuff while on the road," he said.
The most challenging was serving in the elders quorum presidency, because he had meetings to attend. He remembered one Sunday when a team flight landed after 2 a.m. Somehow the reserve post player still made it to his 6 a.m. meeting.
Madsen also watched for the right moments to share the gospel with other players and coaches. For about 10 minutes before every game, the NBA authorizes nondenominational chaplains to visit with players in a private setting about an hour before tipoff.
"These (chaplains) are great human beings. They bring together players from both teams and offered a moment of reflection. It was neat to hear gospel insights from other players and offer some of my own. It's something I will always cherish," Madsen said.
"There are a lot of players who are educated about the Mormon faith, and there are many who are not. I had two teammates, one in L.A. and one in Minnesota, who were curious enough to attend Sunday services."
One of the most meaningful moments in Madsen's career came on a painful day at the beginning of his third year with the Lakers. In a practice prior to an exhibition game in Little Rock, Ark., while going up for a rebound, Madsen collided with Robert Horry and tore his hamstring. Madsen could barely walk and hoped the team would let him miss the trip to Little Rock. To his dismay, the injured Madsen was told to get on the plane anyway. When the team landed in Arkansas, a feast prepared by the mother of teammate Derek Fisher was waiting. To his surprise, mother Fisher asked Mark to say grace.
Pray he did.
"It was something I will never forget because that was a really tough day for me, but it made me feel good because Derek, his mother and the team were comfortable with me (a Mormon) giving the blessing on the food," Madsen said. "I gave the best prayer I possibly could and I was grateful for the chance."
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