Brian Lee Cardinal (born May 2, 1977 in Tolono, Illinois), nicknamed “The Custodian” or “The Janitor”, is an American professional basketball player who has most recently played for the Dallas Mavericks. Prior to being drafted to the NBA, Cardinal played college basketball at Purdue University. Brian Cardinal attended Unity High School in Tolono, Illinois where he played basketball with his brother, Troy. He led the Rockets to an 86–25 record during his high school career, where he averaged 23.5 points during his Junior year and 24.1 points per game in his Senior year. He scored 40 points in two different games. On April 15, Brian was selected as the Coca-Cola All-American Most Valuable Player, where he scored 24 points and 13 rebounds for the West team.
After graduating from high school, Cardinal attended Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana to play under head coach Gene Keady and assistant coaches Frank Kendrick and Bruce Weber. Cardinal was redshirted during his Freshman season. During the 1996–97 season, Brian averaged 10.6 points a game and grabbed 182 rebounds on the season. He recorded his first collegiate double-double in only his second game against Western Michigan with 13 points and 12 rebounds. Along with Juniors Brad Miller and Chad Austin, he helped lead the Boilermakers to an NCAA Tournament Second Round appearance.
Brian was selected as a team captain for his Sophomore season, where he averaged 12 points and grabbed 178 rebounds, while leading Purdue to a 28–8 record. He helped lead the Boilers to a Sweet Sixteen appearance.
Averaging 11.4 points and grabbing 186 rebounds in his Junior season, he scored a career high 33 points in a game against Michigan. Along with teammate Jaraan Cornell, he was named a Third Team All-Big Ten selection and led Purdue to a second straight Sweet Sixteen appearance with a 23–13 record. Cardinal played his last collegiate season with career season highs with 203 rebounds and 13.9 points a game. The Second Team All-Big Ten selection helped lead the Boilermakers to an Elite Eight appearance in 2000 during his Senior year and to a 24–10 record.
Brian Cardinal is second in career starts at Purdue with 125, behind E’Twaun Moore. His career 259 steals at Purdue is the second most in school history behind Chris Kramer’s 260 (2006–2010). His Freshman record with 51 steals in the 1996–97 season was also surpassed by Chris Kramer’s 64 a decade later. He received the nickname, “The Custodian”, due to the way he cleaned the floor diving for loose balls. Brian left Purdue being the only Boilermaker to receive both the “Mr. Hustle” Award and the “Courage” Award four years in a row. On November 28, 2008, ESPN’s Jay Williams compared North Carolina’s Tyler Hansborough to Brian Cardinal’s style of play. While at Purdue, Brian won a Gold Medal at the 1998 Goodwill games; Team USA went 4–1. He was also a member of the 1997 22-and under National Team, which finished 5th in a 12-team field.
Cardinal was selected the 44th overall pick in the 2000 NBA Draft by the Detroit Pistons. During his rookie season, playing in only 15 games, he had his best game against the Toronto Raptors on April 11, 2001, scoring a season-high 9 points, 4 rebounds and a game high three steals in 18 minutes. Playing in a total of 23 games for the Pistons in two seasons, he averaged 2.1 points a game and shot over 80 percent from the free throw line.
On September 11, 2002, he was traded to the Washington Wizards along with Jerry Stackhouse and Ratko Varda, for Richard Hamilton, Hubert Davis and Bobby Simmons. Cardinal was waived shortly after playing in only five games for the Wizards.
He spent the rest of the 2002–03 season playing in the Spanish league for Pamesa Valencia. He was instrumental in leading Pamesa to the ULEB Cup Championship.
After returning to the NBA, he signed with the Golden State Warriors. Cardinal had a breakthrough season with the Warriors, averaging nearly 10 points and 4 rebounds per game, appearing in 76 games. He was a finalist for the NBA Most Improved Player Award, eventually won by Zach Randolph. On February 11, 2004, Cardinal scored a career high 32 points against the Phoenix Suns and just three weeks later he had his career high of 14 rebounds against the Chicago Bulls on February 28.
After a breakthrough season in personal numbers and playing time, Cardinal signed as a free agent with the Memphis Grizzlies, where he posted similar numbers from the previous season, averaging almost 6 points and 2.5 rebounds in the four seasons with the Grizzlies, while injuries diminished playing time. During the 2006–07 season, Brian held career highs of field goal percentage (.494) and free throw percentage (.926).
In June 2008, Cardinal was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves as part of an eight-player deal. Teamed with fellow forward Kevin Love in his eighth season in the NBA under head coach Kevin McHale and assistant coach Jerry Sichting, a former Boilermaker, Brian averaged 3 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.2 assists a game for the 2008–09 season. He recorded his career high three blocks in a game against the New York Knicks on March 13, 2009. In the 2009–10 season, while appearing in 27 games for the Wolves, he averaged a team-low 9 minutes per game and went 21–21 from the free-throw line. On February 17, 2010, Cardinal was traded to the New York Knicks for Darko Miličić. He was subsequently waived by the Knicks. On March 23, he was re-signed by the Timberwolves.
On September 27, 2010, Cardinal was signed by the Dallas Mavericks. On May 8, 2011, Cardinal hit the 20th three pointer in Game 4 of the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers series. His three pointer tied the record for most three pointers by a team in one playoff game with 20, which hadn’t been done since the Seattle SuperSonics did it against the Houston Rockets on May 6, 1996. Cardinal won his first NBA championship with the 2011 Mavericks in a six game playoff series against the Miami Heat. He agreed to sign a new one-year contract worth the veteran minimum on December 12
Brian’s father, Rod Cardinal, was the Illini’s head basketball trainer at the University of Illinois for three decades, from 1973 to 2003; he remains with the Illinois men’s basketball team as their special projects coordinator. Brian served as a towel boy for the 1989 Illinois Final Four team. Brian is married to former walk-on Purdue standout, Danielle Bird. The couple is currently involved with donations to the Purdue University athletics, along with former Purdue quarterback, Drew Brees.