By Mark Wright
The Secret of Mad Dog's Success
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA -- Erlyn Madsen has 10 children and like any
good mother, she hopes her children grow up to be responsible,
contributing members of society. Like any good mother who belongs to
the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Erlyn also hopes
that her children grow up strong in the faith. Erlyn's fifth child,
Mark, seemed destined to fulfill his mother's dreams. He was the
editor of the high school newspaper, student body president, an Eagle
Scout, and attended early morning seminary classes at 6 a.m. After
graduating from High School, he faithfully served a mission in
southern Spain and returned to attend Stanford University. You know
that his mother had to be very proud of her son.
Fast forward a few years and try to imagine Erlyn's concern for her
son when he was selected in the first round of the NBA draft by the
Los Angeles Lakers. Erlyn had heard all about the lifestyle of many
NBA players. The stories about athletes with virtually unlimited
access to drugs, money, and adoring female fans. The stories of
players fathering children out of wedlock. The stories of athletes
who succumb to the many temptations of fame and fortune and lose
their way in life. The kinds of things that can keep a mother awake
at night, worrying about her son. After observing her son's first NBA
season, maybe Erlyn can begin to relax.
By all accounts, Madsen is working hard to stay focused on the
principles that he learned while growing up in a strongly religious
family where adherence to the teachings of Jesus Christ were far more
important than things like sports. Madsen's present-day attitude
reflects a solid family foundation and indicates that he will
continue walking on the straight and narrow path he entered years
ago. "In the NBA there are a lot of distractions of every kind most
of the time," Madsen says. "But most of those things you have to look
for. They don't just come at you. You have to seek them out."
Madsen credits his Latter-day Saint upbringing with much of his
success. Although many athletes never regain their form after taking
two years off for a mission, Madsen feels that serving a mission has
been a big part of his success. "I firmly believe that going on a
mission made me a much better basketball player," Madsen says. "From
a mental standpoint, I'm a heck of a lot stronger." His mental
toughness was on frequently on display during his college days at
Stanford where Madsen honed his hard-nosed playing style and was
known affectionately as "Mad Dog," reflecting his aggressive playing
style. It was a combination of his hard work and his determination to
win that attracted the attention of Phil Jackson, the coach of the
Lakers. The Lakers drafted Madsen in the first round of the NBA
draft. "He pushes our players in practice every day," Jackson says.
"There's nothing dirty about his play, but it's very, very physical,
and that's what we need right now."
Many people associated with Madsen have been duly impressed by his
unique approach to life as well as his hard-charging approach to
basketball. "He's an agent's dream," says Los Angeles sports attorney
Fred Slaughter. "I'm hoping that he's not adversely affected by
people he'll confront in the business who are just the opposite. I
don't think he will be, because his home life and education seem to
be strong." Lakers sports psychologist George Mumford made a similar
observation. "Sometimes people think more of their ability and what
they can do than they should." Madsen, on the other hand, "seems to
have a very good grasp of who he is and what he can do."
While Madsen is now "in the NBA," he's definitely not "of the NBA."
Madsen eschews many of the typical trappings of the NBA lifestyle.
He doesn't have a "posse" or a publicity agent and he hasn't recorded
any rap records. He didn't even have the appropriate NBA wardrobe
until one of his teammates, Shaquille O'Neal, took him down to Rodeo
Drive to give him a little more style. Madsen tells the story and
explains how O'Neal "began putting all this stuff down on the
counter." Madsen was surprised and a little hesitant at first, but
turned grateful when he realized Shaq simply "wanted to do something
nice for me." Shaq ended up buying Madsen $2,500 worth of clothes to
update his look, making sure that Madsen would fit into the LA scene.
One other concession to his new-found celebrity is the SUV that
Madsen drives. However, even in this regard he doesn't quite fit the
NBA mold. Instead of an over-the-top Lexus or Mercedes, Madsen
drives a Chevy Tahoe.
So, given his avoidance of the NBA lifestyle, how does "Mad Dog"
unwind after a game? While on the road, it's very likely that he'll
retire early to his hotel room and curl up with a good book. He's
currently working on Homer's epic the "Iliad." When he's in town,
Madsen's activities continue to reflect his background in the Church.
He spends up to 15 hours a week at Church meetings and activities,
and also serves as a home-teaching supervisor in his ward. After a
recent game against the Clippers, instead of seeking out a post-game
party, Madsen went out and did a little home teaching. It seems he
needed to visit a member of his ward who had been sick.
Even in the NBA, Mark Madsen continues to make his mom proud.
This Guy's Good
Stanford Magazine 1Mar01 S2
By Kerry Shaw
He goes to church every Sunday, refuses to swear and won't even drink
coffee. Can Mark Madsen make it in the high-flying, hard-living NBA?
Sure. Just ask his mother.