Tuesday, June 4, 2013

D-League Decoded: Mark Madsen's Impact on the Los Angeles D-Fenders

Mark Madsen brings youth, familiarity to SoCal. (jimrome.com)

In mid-May, the Los Angeles D-Fenders — the Lakers' D-League affiliate announced in a press conference that they hired former Laker forward Mark Madsen to be their new head coach going in to the 2013-14 season. Madsen will replace former coach Reggie Theus, who took a similar job at Cal-State Northridge. Despite only being out of the NBA for four years, Madsen has already held assistant coaching gigs with the NBADL's Utah Flash (now Delaware 87ers) and Stanford before ending up in L.A.

This won't be the first time the D-Fenders have experimented with a former NBA player as the head coach. Theus had a 14-year career in the NBA, but Chucky Brown (part of the 1994-95 NBA Champion Houston Rockets) held the job during the 2009-10 season before being let go.

Were there more deserving coaches that could have been hired over Madsen? Most likely. But the D-League is a business and Madsen has been a relatively big name around Southern California since his playing days at Stanford in the mid to late '90s. Fans are more apt to pay money to go to a game if they recognize a certain player or coach they remember watching. That will be key for Madsen and the D-Fenders because those Laker fans will have nostalgia of when he was performing (or dancing) with the Lakers.

Add that with a good amount of experience both in the D-League and college level and Madsen will probably be a solid fit with the D-Fenders. One of the biggest challenges an NBADL coach faces is the constant change that happens to his roster on a night by night basis. While that won't be much of an issue with a team like the Lakers, who are built around veteran players, Madsen will still have to be creative with his roster and game-by-game rotation on a nightly basis.

One of the better parts of Madsen being with the D-Fenders would probably be his relatively young age (37). Having a young coach like that will not only be helpful to his future as a coach in the world of professional basketball but also helpful to the Lakers organization because they can help nourish his development as a leader. While it would be bizarre to predict his future as a coach in the D-League and the NBA, it's quite possible that he can land an assistant coaching gig like former player Vitaly Potapenko, who was hired to be with Mike Brown in Cleveland. Of course, those dreams and aspirations will have to wait as Madsen and the rest of the D-Fenders are going to have to take that day-by-day journey to reach the mountain tops that the young coach once reached 12 long years ago.

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