New UVU coach Mark Madsen is out to put his stamp on the upstart basketball program

Former Lakers assistant coach says the NCAA Tournament is the program’s main goal.

Orem • There was no shortage of cheers or hollers or applause. There was plenty of that Monday morning. Because the guy in the green and white tie brought out a crowd, as one does when being introduced as the new men’s basketball coach at a university for the first time.

It just so happens that Mark Madsen arrives in Utah County with an NBA pedigree, a couple championship rings and dance moves unearthed decades ago that went viral before viral was a concept.

So as Utah Valley University President Astrid Tuminez introduced Madsen inside the school’s basketball facility, she interrupted herself as she listed the many reasons why she went with the 43-year-old former Los Angeles Lakers assistant coach to lead the Wolverines.

“I want to see that dance, actually,” Tuminez said. “Between a dancing queen president and a ‘Mad Dog’ dancing coach, all hell will break loose.”

Madsen’s nickname during his playing days was “Mad Dog,” bestowed upon him for his relentless style of play at Stanford and later with the Lakers in the NBA. Madsen, who was officially hired Sunday to replace Mark Pope, who moved a few miles south to Provo to take over the BYU head coaching job, didn’t shy away from the most lofty of goals.

“The goal here for Utah Valley University is to make the NCAA tournament and to make a deep run,” Madsen said.

Under Pope, the Wolverines were coming off back-to-back 20-plus win seasons for the first time ever. Last year, UVU won a program-record 25 games. Madsen reiterated several times Monday that job No. 1 is “re-recruiting” the players already in the program, convincing them to instill trust in the new guy and suit up for him. As is the case with all hirings, the last few days have been a daze for Madsen and his family.

He interviewed for the job Thursday and once further negotiations ensued he woke up at 4 a.m. Sunday to catch a flight from Los Angeles to Utah. Before his introductory news conference began, Madsen and his wife, Hannah, made the rounds introducing themselves to anyone they could find. His parents and in-laws were seated in the front row taking pictures on their cellphones as Madsen stood at the podium explaining his vision for the Wolverine program.

His style of play will be similar to what Pope ran, pace and space, open 3’s, attacking the basket, freedom on offense to create. With some added Madsen wrinkles, of course. Madsen said he loves in-state rivalry games and will pursue any and all options available. He said UVU basketball will not limit itself to recruit locally, adding it will prioritize Utah, have a say nationally and will keep an eye on the international basketball market, too.

“If talent is in South America,” Madsen said, “we’re going to go there.”

This is Madsen’s first collegiate head coaching job, but he isn’t worried about being able to connect with players. As he explains, he was in their shoes once, and he knows what they’re going through. It helps, too, having played with — and won with — Hall of Famers like Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. There won’t be a disconnect in age, either, Madsen said. In recent years with the Lakers, he worked with young lottery talents like Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball.

Once his news conference concluded, UVU administrators thanked attendees for coming, adding that the floor inside the NUVI Basketball Center needed to be cleared. In a couple of hours, the Wolverines were going to practice and Mark Madsen would have the whistle.