OREM — There's little question Utah Valley University's men's basketball program is on the rise and carries a positive vibe, with that momentum continuing Monday with the introduction of Mark Madsen as its new head coach.
A large and enthusiastic crowd of administrators, family, boosters and fans gathered at the NUVI Center Monday morning as Madsen spoke passionately regarding his new task at hand.
"I could not be more excited to be here," Madsen said at the beginning of his comments, which ushered in the first of several ovations. "... It's an honor to be named as the head coach at UVU."
Madsen comes to Utah Valley after spending six years as an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Lakers. As a player, Madsen played for the Lakers from 2000-03, where he was part of two championship teams, and for the Minnesota Timberwolves from 2003-09. He played collegiately at Stanford, where he helped lead the Cardinal to four NCAA Tournaments and a Final Four berth in 1998.
Madsen spoke of his experiences both as a player and a coach throughout the press conference, relating meaningful interactions he's enjoyed with people such as former Stanford coach Mike Montgomery to former NBA star Shaquille O'Neal. He described himself as someone who loves basketball and coaching up players to be their absolute best, often providing details of how he was coached and how he's imparted his own knowledge to those he's coached.
"I've been mentored by some great coaches and some great players, and I consider them friends," Madsen said. "I will draw on my previous experience as a player, and as a coach, and bring it to this program."
Madsen stated his foremost goal is not only reaching the NCAA Tournament, but in making a deep run after getting there. The Wolverines have played in three straight CBI tournaments, with the goal of winning the WAC Tournament and thereby gaining an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament viewed as an achievable goal.
Behind Madsen throughout the press conference were big pictures of Ryan Toolson, Travis Hansen and Ronnie Price, three players who played for the program before moving on to the professional ranks.
"One of the things here at UVU is legacy," Madsen said. "This is a legacy of culture and greatness and a legacy that I hope to continue."
He'll have a great opportunity to see immediate success in his first season, considering what he has returning. Under former UVU coach Mark Pope, the Wolverines reached new heights last season, with several notable transfers set to play next season. Building a relationship with those players, along with those already on the team, is something Madsen will focus on.
"My number one job right now is to re-recruit our current players," Madsen said. "Yesterday I had a chance to meet with or speak with (all the current players), and I'm letting all of them know it's my biggest priority to bring every single player back to this program."Comment on this story
Foremost among those is Jake Toolson, who was named the WAC Player of the Year last season but recently entered the transfer portal to explore other options.
Madsen aims to focus on in-state recruiting but is willing to bring in top players from anywhere around the globe.
"Our goal is to bring in top talent no matter where that talent is," Madsen said. "We'll go to South America if we have to, and we're going to recruit Utah hard. Figuratively, I'm going to try and build a wall around the state of Utah to keep the most talented players here."