Mark Madsen spent 10 years as a player in the NBA and the past seven as an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Lakers. Then on April 14, he was chosen as the new men’s basketball coach for Utah Valley.

That experience has led to a lot of firsts for Madsen.

The first time he’s ever run a high school team camp. The first time he’s ever gone into a recruit’s home as a head coach. The first time he’s ever hired his own coaching staff. The first time he’s ever been responsible for the development of an entire college basketball program.

The man who earned the nickname “Mad Dog” as a player has, predictably, aggressively attacked each new experience.

“The NBA is all basketball, all the time,” Madsen said. “At the college level you have 70 others things to do in addition to the basketball side. You really have to be organized. You have alumni relations, compliance, academics and recruiting. In the NBA you have a staff of 30 doing things outside of basketball. In college, we’re doing it. It’s been awesome, a great opportunity and a challenge.”

Madsen retained Eric Daniels from the previous staff and hired former SLCC coach Todd Phillips and Todd Okeson.

“To be honest, when I took this job I knew exactly what I was looking for on a staff,” Madsen said. “When we went through the interview process, it became clear with every single coach we hired they were a perfect fit for the program. I talked to a lot of other head coaches across the country and some said to hire specialists. I wanted guys who could do everything. I wanted every member of my staff to be amazing at skill development, recruiting and leadership.”

Madsen’s work on his staff isn’t done yet: BYU and former UVU coach Mark Pope pried away Director of Basketball Operations Bobby Horodyski recently. That move will be announced shortly.

Madsen is putting his NBA experience to good use on the recruiting trail.

“We sell our skill development and our player development,” Madsen said. “The NBA does player development better than anywhere in the world. To be a part of that and help develop our core over the years … I worked with Steve Nash and Nick Young. I had Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball. We have those development techniques on our program agenda for the players at UVU.”

The Wolverines finished 25-10 last season, 12-4 in Western Athletic Conference play. Conner Toolson, Ben Nakwaasah and Hayden Schenck graduated and after Pope left for BYU a number of other players chose to move on. WAC Player of the Year Jake Toolson, Richard Harward and Wyatt Lowell all followed Pope to BYU, as did former UVU commit Trey Stewart. Big man Baylee Steele opted to transfer to Duquesne. Spencer Johnson, a returned missionary from American Fork, decided to go to Salt Lake Community College and freshman Drew Cotton left for New Mexico Military Institute.

That’s a lot of roster spots to fill, and Madsen went right to work. He brought in five newcomers — two Division I transfers (Utah’s Brandon Morley and Mercer’s Fardaws Aimaq) and three junior college transfers (Jake Heese, Zach Mogbo and Jamison Overton). Trey Woodbury, a 6-foot-4 guard from UNLV, also recently pledged to the Wolverines.

Seniors T.J. Washington and Connor McDougall and junior Isaiah White return with plenty of experience from last year’s team.

“Those guys are working hard,” Madsen said. “I was here in my office at 11 the other night and T.J. was here working out. The next morning I came in at 7 and he was here again. They’ve bought in and they are excited.”

Madsen walked into a good situation with three Division I transfers who sat out last season: juniors Brandon Averette (Oklahoma State), Ege Havsa (Fordham) and Casdon Jardine (Boise State).

“Those three guys have been phenomenal,” Madsen said. “We really had to recruit each player and shared the vision we have for each one of them. Ege is a consummate point guard. He sees the floor well. Brandon is explosive, smart and tough. He can score and pass and lock up the other team’s best player, 1 through 4. Casden is a player who can play multiple positions and has worked hard on his game. Each guy had other options where they could have left. We are very happy to have retained those three players.”

Madsen and his coaching staff have shared their vision with their current roster as well as with prospects they are recruiting.

“We’re here to make the NCAA Tournament,” Madsen said. “We know we’ve got to win the WAC Tournament to do that. We want to take this school to the NCAAs. That’s the goal. With our group, I think that’s possible and we have a shot of doing it this season.”

Follow Darnell Dickson on Twitter @darnellwrites or e-mail him at

Darnell Dickson, who has been covering sports in Utah since 1989 (with a detour to Nebraska for three years somewhere in there), is currently the BYU football columnist and BYU men’s basketball beat writer.

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