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sport / / BANG: ‘He meant a lot to me’: Podziemski playing with heavy heart after death of high school coach

o BANG: ‘He meant a lot to me’: Podziemski playing with heavy heart after death ofAllen

BANG: ‘He meant a lot to me’: Podziemski playing with heavy heart after death of high school coach


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From: (Allen)
Subject: BANG: ‘He meant a lot to me’: Podziems
Date: Tue, 26 Mar 2024 17:07:33 -0700
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 by: Allen - Wed, 27 Mar 2024 00:07 UTC

‘He meant a lot to me’: Warriors’ Podziemski playing with heavy heart
after death of high school coach
Duane Mlachnik, Podziemski's high school coach, died on March 21
>Golden State Warriors guard Brandin Podziemski (2) shoots while
Washington Wizards forward Marvin Bagley III (35) defends during the
first half of an NBA basketball game in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 27,
2024. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Danny Emerman is a Bay Area News Group sports reporter
By DANNY EMERMAN | | Bay Area News Group
PUBLISHED: March 26, 2024 at 4:20 p.m. | UPDATED: March 26, 2024 at 4:43

MIAMI — For the rest of this season, Brandin Podziemski’s sneakers will
be marked up with two messages: “R.I.P. Duane Mlachnik” and “L.I.F. – DM.”

Podziemski, for the second time this season, is grieving the loss of a
coach close to him. Duane Mlachnik, Podziemski’s high school coach for
two years, died on March 21, 2024 at age 61.

“He really jump-started my love for basketball,” Podziemski said. “He
kind of showed me the endless potential and opportunities it could
create for me.”

Podziemski started seriously playing basketball when he was in eighth
grade. He was tight with Mlachnik’s nephew, Max, and through him got
introduced to Duane and his program at St. John’s Northwestern — a
military academy outside Milwaukee.

After one year of public school, at his parents’ behest, Podziemski
transferred to St. John’s. He spent his sophomore and junior year — two
All-State campaigns — playing for Mlachnik.

But during Podziemski’s senior year, Mlachnik got diagnosed with
Blastomycosis, a rare fungal pneumonia. Mlachnik’s son took over as head
coach in a year Podziemski was named Wisconsin Mr. Basketball.

The past four years have been difficult for Mlachnik and his family amid
his health issues. Podziemski said he got a lung transplant, lost so
much weight that he “didn’t look like himself” and required an air tank
to breathe.

While NBA players, even rookies like Podziemski, are long removed from
their high school days, many stay connected to coaches who make an
impact on them. Gary Payton II last week honored his AAU coach, Darrel
Jordan, who helped him hone his skills once he committed to pursuing his
basketball dream, at an awards event last week. Steph Curry keeps in
occasional touch with his high school coach at Charlotte Christian,
Shonn Brown, and once surprised the school with a message on the
loudspeakers when he was back in town.

View this post on Instagram

>[A post shared by Brandin Podziemski (@iab_podz)]

Podziemski was especially close with Mlachnik. Up until March 21,
Podziemski would regularly check in with the coach to see how he was
feeling. And Mlachnik, even in his condition, continued to coach his
former star guard.

In a three-game stretch, from March 16 to March 20, Podziemski struggled
through arguably his worst stretch as a rookie. He recorded only seven
points across 81 minutes, including a scoreless night in a loss to the

“He noticed that I didn’t really look like myself out there,
particularly offensively,” Podziemski said. “Playing a little more
passive than aggressive. So like, on my shoes, it says ‘L.I.F’ — let it
fly. That’s what he kept stressing to me.”

>Photo of Brandin Podziemski's sneakers, marked up in honor of Duane
Danny Emerman | Bay Area News Group

In the two games since March 21, when Mlachnik died, Podziemski has
taken, and sank, more shots. The loss is still weighing on him “quite a
bit,” though.

“It’s been tough,” Podziemski said. “But I think through playing, being
around basketball to try to take your mind off it. I’ve been trying to
do a lot of that. Obviously in my free time, you think about it quite a
bit. Lot of death, obviously, with Deki. Just trying to use basketball
as a way to get your mind off it.”

Podziemski has made arrangements to return to Wisconsin on April 1 for
Mlachnik’s funeral. His high school teammates will be there, as well as
many members of Mlachik’s family he knows well. According to Mlachnik’s
obituary, he had six kids and 16 grandchildren, many of whom he coached.

“He meant a lot to me,” Podziemski said. “He kind of showed me what my
journey could look like if I really put my mind to it…He’s always been
in my corner through ups and downs. Same with everyone else in his family.”

sport / / BANG: ‘He meant a lot to me’: Podziemski playing with heavy heart after death of high school coach


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