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Posted 26 Mar 2001   For week ended March 02, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 23Mar01

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.


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