Mark Madsen, center, helps out with the Lakers' summer league camp… (Juan Ocampo / NBAE via Getty…)
In May, Mark Madsen was originally introduced as the head coach of the D-Fenders. But before coaching a single game, Madsen was promoted to the Lakers' staff as a player development coach.
"A short period after I signed on to be the D-Fenders' head coach, a few other coaches on the Lakers' staff left the organization," said Madsen in a phone interview with The Times. "There were some subsequent conversations with Coach [Mike] D'Antoni -- with [General Manager] Mitch Kupchak, gauging my interest."
Madsen jumped at the chance for his first bench job in the NBA, after assistant positions with his alma mater, Stanford, along with the D-League's Utah Flash.
"You have an opportunity with the players in the NBA, which is the top league in the world, or the D-League, which is the developmental league. Both are great leagues," he said. "I think for me right now, I wanted to go ahead and make the step up to the NBA."
Madsen will travel with the Lakers throughout the season, working with fellow player development coach Larry Lewis under the guidance of D'Antoni. He'll be available to work with players "at any time -- day or night."
"Whether it's helping guys understand Mike D'Antoni's system ... being there for the players when they want to work during the summertime," continued Madsen. "We'll really focus on helping them to keep their skills honed, keep their skills sharp."
In the D-Fenders, the Laker's NBA Development League affiliate, Madsen left behind the chance to experience his first position in charge of a professional team.
"What you do miss is the opportunity to be a head coach -- to know what it feels like to call the shots during the games, to manage a staff," Madsen said. "There's a trade-off in everything. Probably every single coach in the D-League, if offered a position with an NBA team as a player development coach, they would probably all take it."
Long term, his goal is to be a head coach in the NBA.
"At some point that's definitely a goal," he said. "Without a doubt."
Now, he'll have the chance to work with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash, along with some of the team's younger players.
"In a way I'm really excited to work with Pau Gasol," Madsen said. "Here's a guy who is an All-Star player and as a coach I want to grow, I want to learn. I'm going to help the players a lot, but guess what? I'm going to learn a lot from the players too. I'm going to learn a lot from Kobe. I'm going to learn a lot from Pau Gasol."
Madsen was Bryant's teammate for three seasons, winning NBA titles in 2001 and 2002.
"The great thing about Kobe is -- Kobe has a very high standard for himself and he holds his teammates accountable," Madsen said. "He pushes his teammates to be the best players they can be."
Though expectations may have been generally lowered for the Lakers with the loss of Dwight Howard, who left as a free agent to join the Houston Rockets, Madsen is confident in the group of players the Lakers are bringing to the court next season.
"It's a tremendous group of guys. I think we can have a tremendous season this year and really surprise a lot of people with a push at the championship," Madsen said. "I'm excited about the opportunity. I'm going to work really hard and we're going to have a lot of fun. I think we're going to have a great season."
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Email Eric Pincus at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.