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Former Ute basketball player Jimmy Madison dies, fifth member of Utah’s mid-1980s teams to pass away too soon

Former Utah teammates Mitch Smith and Manny Hendrix say the 6-foot-9 Madison was a gentle giant, died in Tucson, Arizona a few days ago of a stroke or heart attack

Former Utah Runnin’ Ute Jimmy Madison
Courtesy Utah Athletics

Former teammates and friends are mourning the death of ex-University of Utah basketball star Jimmy Madison.

A member of the Lynn Archibald-coached teams from 1985-1989, Madison died after suffering a sudden stroke or experiencing cardiac arrest in Tucson, Arizona, former Utes Manny Hendrix and Mitch Smith confirmed Tuesday.

Madison was 54.

Hendrix, now a senior associate athletic director at Utah, said Madison was working in youth corrections in Tucson and living alone while struggling with diabetes and high blood pressure.

When he didn’t report for work, a relative was sent to his home and found him deceased in a bathroom. Madison grew up in Yuma, Arizona, and was recruited to Utah by the late Archibald as a 6-foot-9 center in 1985.

“He was a gentle giant,” Hendrix said.

Madison was divorced and has a daughter, Jamie, living in Salt Lake City. After a professional career in Europe, he returned to SLC and started a career in youth corrections for several years before returning to his home state.

Madison is the fourth player and fifth member of Utah’s mid-1980s teams to pass away, joining Archibald (1983-89), Jerry Stroman (1984-86), Bobby Adair (1984-85) and Albert Springs (1984-87). Archibald died in 1997 of cancer, Stroman died in February of 2019 of cancer, Springs died in 2009 of complications from a blood clot, while Adair was killed in a Parleys Canyon car crash in 1990.

“We are losing them much too soon,” Hendrix said.

Smith, who also hailed from Arizona and played with Madison all four years at Utah, said former teammate Gale Gondrezick called him with the awful news late Monday.

“It’s incredibly sad,” said Smith, who led the Utes in scoring three of those four years, while Madison was usually second or third. “We were roommates for two years and best friends for five or six years. He was just a great person, a great athlete, and a very happy person. He was always smiling.”

After exhausting their eligibility at Utah, Smith and Madison both played professionally in Europe, but never on the same team.

“Jimmy could do everything on the basketball court,” said Smith. “He could post up, he could shoot outside, he could drive. And he always guarded the other team’s best player.”

Smith is taking the year off as East High’s basketball coach but plans to return to the bench next season. Dan Del Porto is the Leopards’ interim head coach.

Smith and Hendrix said Madison was quiet and reserved off the court, but on the court he was a ferocious defender who occasionally got in foul trouble due to his hard-nosed approach. Madison’s 332 fouls ranks No. 6 all-time in Ute history. He fouled out of 16 games.

“As an athlete, he was a guy who had all the materials to play at the next level,” Hendrix said. “He was so talented, but his mentality didn’t co-exist with his athleticism. He could have been a major, major impact college player and professional player, but he didn’t have a motor.”

Hendrix said Madison “was the nicest guy you would ever want to be around. … If he had Mitch Smith’s motor, he would have been a major force to be reckoned with.”

Funeral services are pending.