Tags Posts tagged with "Bryon Russell"

Bryon Russell

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Michael Jordan, Bryon Russell, Basketball Challenge
Michael Jordan vs. Bryon Russell Challenge Photo: Shutterstock
Interesting the way things happen in life. Months ago, Utah Flash (The NBA minor league team I help coach) owner Brandt Andersen made a public challenge for both Bryon Russell and Michael Jordan to come to Orem Utah to play in a symbolic one-on-one game commemorating past times. 🙂 Brandt himself pledged a check for $100,000 to the winner’s favorite charity. I caught wind of the challenge even though I had become a Clipper (I was traded from the Timberwolves to the LA). But, in early October, after a series of events, I ended up being waived by the Clippers then joining Brad Jones–the Utah Flash Head Coach–as one of his assistant coaches. So, I personally lived through this Michael Jordan thing and I was there at the game where the stunt double went out on the court at halftime as Michael Jordan. I want to weigh in on this because I was here for it and because some media outlets are doing a poor job of representing the entirety of the situation.

First of all, I was in a Utah Flash meeting in October right there in Provo Utah, when someone from the basketball side asked the question, “Is Michael going to come for the home opener?” The answer I heard was interesting. The message Brandt Andersen and the Flash had received from MJ’s representation several weeks earlier was that if Michael did choose to come he would let the Flash know the day before, or the day of the event. Is the greatest player of all time entitled to some flexibility? OF COURSE! The possibility of his coming for the game, even to Provo Utah seemed to be there. So, now, there is context to what Brandt says in his blog below:

“I knew I would not know if MJ was going to attend until a few hours before game time. I never received the call indicating he would not attend.”

Even though I was born and raised in Danville California, I do have family ties to the Provo area, and I have spent some summers in Utah. I have heard mixed reactions from different people. Some people were upset that Michael was not at the game. But many many other people had a great night and thought the entire production was in good fun.But for ESPN to include the word “HOAX” in the headline of their story about the situation as a whole is misguided. Yes, there was a Michael Jordan lookalike in the tunnel at halftime and I thought to myself, “This guy is too short…MJ is 6’6″ and this guy is barely 6’0″.” But Brandt’s challenge was real, his willingness to write the check to charity was real, and everyone’s hope of MJ’s attendance was real.

Never once did Brandt Andersen, say that Michael Jordan was coming to the game. Could the situation have been handled differently? Hindsight is always 20-20 and of course things could have been done in a different way. But when I was playing for the Timberwolves, the game operations staff had a fake Jack Nicholson get kicked out of our home game against the Lakers. That was fun for the fans and everyone loved it! The biggest problem in this situation was that people started thinking Michael was coming for sure instead of looking it as a possibility. People started buying tickets believing Michael’s presence was a certainty. The 6’0″ bald guy, lookalike coming out at halftime did rub some people the wrong way, but others loved it and laughed and had fun. How did Brandt handle those that were upset? He came out on his blog within hours and offered full refunds for everybody who asked. In another telling move that shows transparency, Brandt’s staff even allowed every single negative comment in reaction posted on his blog.

The sports world needs more owners like Mark Cuban, Dr. Jerry Buss, and Brandt Andersen. When I first signed my deal to coach with the Utah Flash I received an email from an old friend from UCLA who now teaches in Utah. His email said,

“We have gone to a lot of Flash games, we think there is a great family environment there.”

My friend is right. Utah Flash games continue to be a wholesome fun experience for families, singles, and basketball fans……not to mention we are 5-1. So I will see you guys at the Flash Arena sometime! And again, in the media it would be nice to have the entire story told and not just a few newspaper selling fragments.

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Mark Madsen took new job
I just took a new job! Photo: shutterstock
I just signed a one year contract to be an assistant coach with the Utah Flash, located in Orem Utah…..and I’m excited to start coaching! One week ago I went to a Timberwolves game and it was surreal to be up in the stands watching my old teammates and friends, Al Jefferson, Kevin Love, Gomes, Cardinal and the entire crew! I had the chance to go to NBA training camp and a firm offer in Greece, but the NBA opportunity was a long shot to make the team, and as much as I would love to go to Greece, the timing wasn’t quite right.

I thought to myself: “Well, i can wait, stay in shape, and hope for a great NBA opportunity with a team where a big guy gets hurt, or I can jump on this opportunity.” Ultimately it was an easy decision because I’ve always thought that I would like to coach, and you never really know when NBA playing opportunities come. I also just kind of thought it would be too boring to workout on my own while waiting for the right NBA opportunity which might come and might not.

Then when I spoke to Brad Jones, head coach of the Utah Flash and he shared with me his philosophy and some of the responsibilities he would entrust me with, it seemed like a great fit. (Brad Jones is also the nephew of utah Jazz head coach, Jerry Sloan). And then on top of it, The Flash owner Brandt Andersen reminds me a little bit of Glen Taylor (Timberwolves owner) in his commitment and passion for the game. In fact, I had heard about the Michael Jordan vs. Bryon Russell challenge, and then I realized it was Brandt Andersen who came up with the idea.

Even though I am a native Californian, I do have some family ties in Utah and in the Provo/Orem area. So ultimately I do feel it will be a nice fit. I’m grateful to Brandt Andersen and Coach Brad Jones for the opportunity and promise to work very hard and try to make the team better. I will be keeping my home in Minnesota and look forward to getting back out to Eden Prairie this summer to enjoy all of what Minnesota has to offer. Thanks for all of the positive feedback on Twitter and FB and I hope to see some of you at some Utah Flash games this season!!