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Meet the Mad Dog

San Ramon native Mark "Mad Dog" Madsen might dominate the court, but in his off-time he focuses on his coaching, blogging, and helping young players.


Images Courtesty of Erik Isakson Photographics

San Ramon Valley High alum Mark Madsen was known as “Mad Dog” for his aggressive play in his nine-season NBA career. In truth, the six-foot-nine-inch Madsen is a puppy dog—a gentle giant who loves speaking to young players, traveling, and blogging in Spanish. This month, Madsen, 34, will be honored at the Tri-Valley Sports Hall of Fame dinner, an annual recognition of outstanding local athletes that benefits Easter Seals Bay Area.

Diablo: It wasn’t that long ago that you were the star player at San Ramon Valley High. Did you always dream of playing in the NBA?

Mark Madsen: I never really knew how the basketball road would unfold. When I was in high school, I didn’t know if I would be a good player in college, and in college, I didn’t know if I would make the NBA. The one thing I knew I wanted to do someday was coach, and that’s what I’m doing now. [Madsen coaches for the Utah Flash in the NBA development league.] I had an amazing coach at San Ramon, John Raynor, who is still coaching there.

Diablo: Who gave you the name “Mad Dog”?

MM: That goes all the way back to Montair Elementary, and my fifth-grade PE teacher, Mr. Cornel.

Diablo: You won championships in your first two NBA seasons with the Lakers. A video of you dancing at a championship parade in L.A. was shown over and over on ESPN, and is now posted on YouTube, with a comment that it is “the best moment in the history of white people dancing.” Comments?

MM: [Laughs] I get asked about that dance more than anything else in my basketball career. The weird thing is that I wasn’t the only one dancing—all of my teammates were dancing next to me. Was my dancing any worse than Derek Fisher’s? That’s just how I dance.

Diablo: Tell us a story you share with young players.

MM: When I was with the Lakers, I came back from a hamstring injury, went into a game, and shot two straight air balls from the free throw line. Unbelievably embarrassing. Shaq joked, “You’re the first player in the history of the NBA to do that.” But someone told me to view everything as feedback, not as failure. I worked really hard on my free throws that season and improved tremendously.

Diablo: You were the editor of the newspaper at San Ramon Valley High. If you had pursued a career in journalism, where would you have liked to work?

MM: Some sort of international capacity. One of the members of the San Ramon newspaper staff, Aditya Raval, was a journalist at ABC, and he covered the Middle East. We kept in touch, and it was always exciting to hear what he was working on.

Diablo: This month, you’ll be inducted into the Tri-Valley Sports Hall of Fame. Your thoughts?

MM: The time has gone by fast. Danville is my hometown, and I love it there, so I’m so excited to come back and see old friends, and be in the area again. Anyone who has gone through John Raynor’s basketball program at San Ramon shares a unique bond. It’s an honor to be a part of that tradition.

On April 29, Madsen, Olympic rower Marci Porter Lucier, and bull rider Justin Andrade will be honored at the 20th Annual Tri-Valley Sports Hall of Fame celebration at Pleasanton’s Palm Events Center; bayarea.easterseals.com.

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