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APRIL 1, 1991
The Merry-go-round that was Mark Randall's pro basketball life passed through nine cities, including one stop in Europe, as he pursued his dream to find a permanent home in the NBA. "Journeyman," Randall says, describing a career that sent him from Chicago to Minneapolis to Detroit to Milan, Italy, to Miami to Rapid City, S.Dak., to Denver to Rapid City to Denver to Fort Wayne, Ind., to La Crosse, Wis., and Denver. "That's the best description for someone in my former position. I was wandering from team to team, trying to find my place in the NBA."
He may have finally succeeded. For the past five seasons Randall, 35, has been on the Denver Nuggets' staff, most recently as the team's fourth assistant coach, with the primary responsibilities of advance scouting and player development. Before being promoted into his current position he spent nearly three years crisscrossing the country as one of Denver's college scouts, and amid the hunt for the next NBA superstar he would occasionally stop at the University of Kansas, where for one shining moment in March 1991 he was at the center of the basketball universe.
Kansas coach Roy Williams once called him the least confident good player he had ever seen, but that season the 6'8" center averaged 15-0 points and helped lead the Jayhawks to the national title game. He appeared on the SI cover before the Final Four under the headline CAN KANSAS? Alas the Jayhawks could not; Duke defeated them in the title game despite Randall's 18 points and 10 rebounds. In June he was the first-round draft pick (No. 26) of the defending NBA champion Chicago Bulls. "I was so elated when [commissioner] David Stern announced my name," he says, "but the reality of the business hit very soon."
Randall signed a one-year deal for $180,000, the minimum that teams over the salary cap could pay a first-round pick that season, and rarely left the Bulls' bench. On Dec. 30, 1991, two months into his rookie season, Randall received the news he would hear throughout his career: We're letting you go. So began his journey. By 1997 he had grown weary of chasing his dream and retired from basketball to join his wife Kimberly's home medical-billing business. (The couple has two children, Samantha, 4, and Dylan, 2.) But after the NBA players were locked out by the owners for seven months beginning in July 1998, Randall gave it one last shot. He made the Denver roster but lasted only two weeks.
After departing the Nuggets for the third time in five years, Randall was asked by Denver coach Dan Issel, "Are you at that point in your career that you want to move onto something else?" Randall said he was. "Well," said Issel, "what do you think about getting into scouting for us?"
Randall immediately took the job and left his playing dreams behind.