Nike Say No Classic, Part 1: A Legend Looks Back
At the Pan Pacific courts in Hollywood, local legend Rod Smith shares stories about the league he helped form.
/LA: How long have you been involved in the SNC?
Rod: The league has been around for 35 years. I started as a coach 19 years ago.
/LA: Why did you get involved with the SNC??
Rod: One summer, I had the opportunity to see the famous Raymond Lewis. He was so incredible! After that, I said to myself, “Man I love this. This is something!” I knew I had to get involved with the basketball community.
/LA: What do you remember about the early days of the SNC?
Rod: The league was originally founded by Daryl Garrison of the NBA Referee Association and Dick Marcus. Back then, it was a pro-am league. Daryl was using it as a training ground for pro referees.
/LA: So when did the name and the league change?
Rod: In the early 1970’s, it broke off into two leagues, the Summer Pro League and the Southern California College Open. I went to college here in L.A. and one of my old classmates was involved. He asked me to coach for the College Open. We were affiliated with the D.A.R.E. program [Drug Abuse Resistance Education] at the time. That’s where we got the name “Say No.” We really wanted to start giving college players a place to develop.
Nike Say No Classic Part 2: A Legend’s Perspective
In the second part of our feature on the SNC, Rod Smith speaks about going pro and the LA basketball community.
Smith is the heart of the Nike Say No Classic. Year after year he dedicates himself to the league. The game. The kids. The city of Los Angeles. He personifies “love of the game.”
/LA: What is the goal of the SNC from a player’s perspective?
Rod: The SNC provides a transition from college to pro ball. We run pro rules. This is the first time that most of these guys have played pro rules.
/LA: How does the SNC affect the L.A. basketball community?
Rod: It really brings it together. You’ve got players and coaches from 11 major colleges in Los Angeles spending the summers together. All the L.A. schools release their players so that they’re eligible to play. It’s mostly D1 players. But we also get athletes trying out from some of the smaller California schools.
/LA: What do you see as the main goal of the SNC?
Rod: Realistically, only a small number of these athletes will play professional ball. Our coaches understand about the transition from youth to adulthood. They serve as mentors. No one is in it for pay. The players become our surrogate children for the summer. We really strive to help these kids grow. Get their degree. Reach their potential as adults.
/LA: Any final thoughts on the SNC?
Rod: These kids have a lot of heart and they’re here for the love of it. Most games will be at The Point in Hollywood so it’ll be pretty intense. A lot of people are going to be packed into that place!
Nike Say No Classic Part 3: The Next Generation
David Smith speaks about his father’s legacy and the future of this extraordinary league.
David Smith grew up on the Nike Say No Classic. As the son of one of the league’s foremost founding fathers, the SNC courses through his veins. His father Rod may be the heart of the SNC, but David is the soul. And his eyes are set on the future.
/LA: How long have you participated in the SNC?
David: I’m 29 years old, and I’ve been involved my whole life. My father started me out as a ball boy. Now I can pretty much run it on my own and start pursuing some of my own ideas.
/LA: You’re involved in many aspects of the SNC. But what’s your favorite role?
David: I love being on the mic at the games. At home, I watch the broadcasters on T.V., and they’re just not hoopers. I breathe this stuff. I’m an avid hooper and I know this game inside and out.
/LA: What do you see as the future of the league?
David: I want to take it farther south. We just opened the Cal-Poly Pomona division because we wanted to tap into the Inland Empire. They have so much talent over there. Now I want to go even further south. Set up a triangle with Los Angeles, Inland Empire, and the San Diego area.
/LA: The SNC is already one of the biggest summer leagues in the game. Why expand?
David: I really want to tap into ALL of the talent that Southern California has to offer. To show the world what types of players we have. We don’t get all the publicity down here, but as long as we keep showing the world how much talent comes out of So Cal, our work is done.
/LA: Any final thoughts on the league?
David: The SNC is like a family reunion every summer. It’s all love. It’s all unity. And that’s all you can ask for.