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UVU Head Coach Mark Madsen Remembers Lakers Teammate Kobe Bryant

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The entire sports world is mourning the loss of Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant who passed away on Sunday in a helicopter crash. He was 41 years old.

Among the many who are grieving over the loss of a special person and player is Utah Valley University men’s basketball coach Mark Madsen who played and coached Bryant throughout his career.

Madsen was drafted by the Lakers with the 29th overall selection in 2000. He played with Bryant and the Lakers from 2000-03 where they won two NBA Championships. The UVU head coach spoke to KSL Sports’ Jeremiah Jensen about the news of Bryant’s passing.

“I have a lot of different emotions and feelings,” Madsen said. “I think the biggest one is that I feel so sad for his family because Kobe loved his wife and daughters so much. He lived for his family. It’s a hard day. After he retired, he would come back to games with his family, when he was playing, he would come with Vanessa and his daughters.”

Madsen had a hard time taking in the news when it was announced that Bryant passed away.

“When I first heard the news I thought it was a hoax because it just seemed too soon,” Madsen stated.

Family Man

We all knew who Bryant was as a player, winning five NBA titles, two Finals MVP’s and NBA MVP, two Olympic gold medals and 18 NBA All-Star appearances. Madsen knew him more than what the average fan knew him and that was a great father and husband who loved his family.

“That was everything to him. His family was everything,” Madsen stated. “He had off the court interests. When he was getting ready to retire, he talked about how he wanted to get into storytelling, movies, short stories. But, where he really spent all of his time was with his wife and daughters.”

Interactions With Bryant

Madsen played with Bryant for three seasons before returning to the Lakers as an assistant coach for the final two years of Bryant’s career. Bryant made a huge impact on Madsen’s career because of the work ethic that he displayed.

“I spent three years with Kobe as a player and then I coached him for two years and when I played with him it was a new experience for me because I have never been in a situation where the stakes were so high and I never played with anyone who was such a winner,” said Madsen. “Winning was everything and he pushed everyone around him and he pushed me. He pushed me extremely hard, sometimes harder than I thought I could be pushed. Sometimes it was hard for me but through those moments, we developed a bond. We developed a friendship and it grew over time. By the time I came back a decade later, the relationship continued to grow. I am going to miss him.”

Madsen also had the opportunity to coach Bryant especially at the end of his career. He said that Bryant kept the coaching staff on their toes because of his extremely high basketball IQ.

“Can anyone really coach Kobe?” Madsen laughingly asked. “Can anyone really coach one of the greatest players of all-time? Obviously, the game prep, anytime you went up in front of the team to do a white-board scout, or to present something, you had to make sure you knew everything because Kobe was brilliant, he knew the game inside and out and he demanded your best as a player, as a coach. I think that is one of the reasons why the Lakers had so much success because Kobe held everybody to such a high standard. And he brought so much joy to people. People work hard in this world, a lot of great people in LA and sometimes we all need a diversion and Kobe brought so much joy and happiness to all of the fans of LA and all of the fans of basketball around the world. He even brought joy to his teammates. Sometimes you were out on the court and something good would happen or you were on the bench and he would do something amazing. He brought a lot of special memories to a lot of people.”

Memories With Kobe

When Madsen started to reflect on his memories from his time with Bryant and the Lakers, one story stood out when the team was on the charter.

“We were on the Lakers charter once and there was some type of emergency where I had to make a call but we were up in the air but on the old planes back then they had a wired phone where you could swipe your credit card but I remembered that Kobe knew that I needed to make a call. He had me go over to him and use his phone and his credit card. He had your back. He could be pushing you so hard and you didn’t know you could go further. I played in high school and I played in college, I thought I had been pushed and done all of that. I got to the NBA with Kobe and didn’t realize how much further I could be pushed. And those moments sometimes were hard but then you need something, Kobe was the first one to have your back.”

Finally when asked about Bryant’s legacy, Madsen didn’t say it was basketball.

“Obviously the basketball legacy is huge but for people that lived in LA and that were around him knew it was his family,” Madsen added.

Madsen spoke to KSL’s Unrivaled about his time with Kobe Bryant.

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