SAN DIEGO — Hank Egan, the University of San Diego's basketball coach, is no magician.
But everybody makes wishes once in a while.
The other day, the subject was USD forward Nils Madden, the Toreros' leading rebounder this season.
Along with center Scott Thompson and reserves Steve Krallman and Eric Musselman, Madden is a link to USD's West Coast Athletic Conference championship team in 1984 that advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
Madden, 6-feet 9-inch, remembers sitting on the bench during USD's opening-round tournament loss to Princeton in Philadelphia. And he remembers an awful lot in between. Probably, according to Egan, too much.
"If I had a magic wand and I could tap people and give them what I think they needed, I would have it so Nils could go out after each game, have a good time and then forget about it," Egan said. "He has to learn to be as kind and considerate to himself as he is to other people."
Madden is a quiet, introspective person, who "doesn't cause too much trouble," says Thompson, one of his roommates.
He likes to spend a Saturday afternoon at the beach, lying in the sun and swimming.
Once he returns, he definitely wants to be alone. All the better for his daily workout. Weightlifting is among Madden's priorities.
"That's the first thing you notice about Nils," Egan said. "He's tremendous physically."
But Madden can be very hard on himself.
He's averaging 7.1 rebounds and 10.6 points per game this season, and in the Toreros' home opener against Boise State, he hit a long jumper--maybe even a bit out of his range--to win the game at the buzzer.
However, not every game can be memorable. And Madden sometimes has trouble forgetting.
The other day, Torero guard Mike Haupt was sitting in the training room when a reporter asked the whereabouts of Madden.
"You want to talk to him?" Haupt asked. "I don't know (if that's such a good idea). I think he's still down about the way he played against Gonzaga (three days earlier)."
Indeed, the game had been one to forget.
Madden had hit just 1 of 6 shots from the field and scored six points. The Toreros suffered their worst loss of the season, 58-46.
"We went out there and I guess we thought it was going to be easier than it was," Madden said the other day. "Sometimes, I go out there and I think it's going to be easy, but it's just not. When you're in practice, it seems like you can do anything. But it's never the same in a game."
So Madden will spend time thinking of ways he can improve.
"You'll look back on a play and wonder, 'Why didn't I just go in and dunk that ball?' " he said. "I think, 'Why didn't I play a little harder or more aggressively in that situation?' "
Madden is always learning new lessons.
He grew up in Sebastopol, a small city about an hour north of San Francisco. The youngest of six children, Madden was always trying to live up to the standards set by his two brothers.
One of them, Knut, was an all-everything in four sports in high school. When he got to high school, six years later, Madden concentrated on just two sports--basketball and tennis.
He started to grow after his sophomore year at El Molino High and began to concentrate more on basketball.
"My brothers were always pushing me," Madden said. "We had a hoop in the backyard and all of that. It wasn't like I felt like I was in their shadow, but I wanted to do well for myself."
And he did. By joining USD in the fall of 1983, Madden became just one of a handful of players from his hometown to ever play basketball for a Division I school. Now, he's improved on that by becoming a starter.
"I think sometimes Nils can't believe he's playing at the Division I level," Egan said. "But he's capable of playing. I want him to understand that he can contribute to this team in a lot of different ways. He's a good rebounder and our best defensive player inside."
Madden, too, understands, but he isn't always comfortable with it.
"I think I've got to start contributing more on offense," he said.
Egan said he wouldn't mind if Madden scored more, but he's more concerned with Madden's frame of mind.
"He's such a competitor," Egan said. "When I first saw him (Madden's sophomore year), he didn't seem like he had a great deal of experience. He played without a lot of confidence.
"Now, he's a force on this team, but I'm not sure he always realizes it. He can be a contributor in so many different ways. I try to impress upon him that the opportunity to score 19 points or something like that doesn't present itself every night. He's a starter on a Division I team. He should enjoy that."
After his senior season, it is unlikely that Madden will play professionally. He's a 3.5 student in business administration and interested in pursuing a business career after he graduates in May.
"If the opportunity arises to play basketball after this season, I'll look into it then," Madden said. "I'm not real worried about it now."
Instead, Madden says he's more worried about putting on about 10 or 15 pounds before the end of the season. That's why, he says, he eats a plate of spaghetti every night around 11 before he goes to bed.
Egan wishes that was the only thing Madden worried about.
"The way I look at it, Nils has 14 or 15 college basketball games left," Egan said. "I wish he would just go out an enjoy them to the fullest."