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DICKSON: Welcome to the party, Mark Madsen

April 16, 2019 GMT

Utah Valley University knows how to throw a party.

There was a festive atmosphere at the Nuvi Center on Monday as the men’s basketball program celebrated the hiring of Mark Madsen as its new head coach.

His comments — and those of UVU President Astrid Tuminez — were frequently interrupted by applause and at one point Madsen’s father-in-law yelled out, “Mad Dog!” which was Madsen’s nickname as a player in college and in the NBA.

Optimism and enthusiasm are typical in these situations. The full weight of Madsen’s new job hasn’t yet hit him, there are no losses on his ledger and Wolverine fans have vivid dreams of NCAA Tournaments.

It was interesting to contrast two coaching hire news conferences just five days apart. The BYU news conference introducing Mark Pope as head coach was a small affair at the BYU Broadcast Building, a bit subdued like a church meeting.

The UVU news conference was more like a pep rally.

Let your Wolverine freak flag fly.

Regardless, both BYU and UVU have coaches who bring with them unique experiences. Pope played at Kentucky and in the NBA, whereas the man he replaced, Dave Rose, played at the University of Houston and came up through the junior college ranks as a coach.

At Utah Valley, Madsen brings with him his NBA playing experience and a large group of influencers and pros as contacts.

Hey, how many coaches in Utah have NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal on speed dial?

Madsen was one of the names submitted as a possible head coaching candidate for BYU. He was part of Luke Walton’s staff with the Los Angeles Lakers that was let go last week.

His week got better in a hurry. He was interviewed on Thursday and by Sunday was on his way to Orem.

Last week I received a letter from Madsen’s mother Erlyn.

(A letter is a piece of paper with writing on it that comes through the postal service, kids. People used to communicate this way. Ask your parents about it.)

Erlyn Madsen is obviously proud of what her son had accomplished during his playing and coaching career, but what caught my eye was a story she shared about the friendship between Mark and Shaq.

Apparently, O’Neal took a shine to the young Laker rookie back in 2000. O’Neal had just signed a huge new contract and took Madsen with him to pick out Rolex watches for the entire Laker family.

O’Neal offered to buy Madsen a car (he declined). Then they went clothes shopping and Madsen allowed O’Neal to buy him one shirt and one pair of pants. What Madsen didn’t know was that O’Neal had people grabbing dozens of shirts and pants in the same size and hiding them behind the counter to give him later.

Madsen’s mother pointed out that even though reports last week indicated Madsen had attempted to become a BYU assistant previously but hadn’t gotten the job, that wasn’t true.

So don’t believe everything you read.

What is true is that Madsen was interviewed for the Utah Valley head coaching job four years ago. The Wolverines hired Pope instead, but kept tabs on Madsen. A source close to the interview process said the UVU brass was impressed with how much Madsen had matured over the past four years.

Madsen is a great choice for the Utah Valley basketball program, a very good situation for him to break into college coaching. Even with Jake Toolson and Baylee Steele in the transfer portal, there is talent in Orem. And it’s a good job for a coach looking to be upwardly mobile at some point.

One aspect of this whole process that really struck me was the impact these hires will have on both schools in terms of assistant coaches. Many of UVU’s assistants were at the news conference, leaning over the rails on the upper deck of the Nuvi Center. UVU’s guys — Chris Burgess, Cody Fueger, Eric Daniels, Bobby Horodyski and BYU’s guys — Quincy Lewis, Tim LaComb, Lee Cummard, Andrew May, Garrett Faucett and Nate Austin — have had their lives turned upside down the past couple of weeks. Sure, they got into the business knowing that’s all part of the deal, but it can’t be easy waiting around for what comes next.

As for Madsen, this is his first head coaching gig. As an NBA assistant, his duties were pretty straight forward. The college experience is multi-layered with academics and recruiting playing huge roles. The pressure to win is enormous.

I don’t know how more guys don’t end up curled up in ball in their office at four in the morning having a nervous breakdown.

Now, the party is over. Expectations will be high after the Wolverines have won 24 an 25 games the past two seasons. It’s time to create the process that will lead to success.

You’re up, Mad Dog.