Kenny Smith sits in the CBS/Turner studio between a Midwesterner in Clark Kellogg and a Southerner in Charles Barkley, so it’s up to him to be the official New York representative on the NCAA crew.
No problems there for a guy who even though he now lives in California still has no shortage of Queens-bred pride, more so than ever with the tournament returning to Madison Square Garden on Friday for the first time in more than a half-century.
“It’s definitely cool,’’ Smith said. “New York is definitely the mecca of basketball – being a New Yorker I believe that. There’s an appreciation that the fans have like no other place in the world.’’
Smith, 49, first played at the Garden for Archbishop Molloy High School, and soon came to appreciate its unique vibe.
“They only cheer you around the country when you score,’’ he said. “In New York they cheer you for so many other things. When you rebound or make a nice pass the whole building can go crazy. It’s the only place in the world that is like that on a regular basis.’’
Smith was shocked to learn the NCAAs had not visited the Garden since before he was born.
“The World’s Most Famous Arena, with the world’s most interesting fans?’’ he said. “It needs to be there.’’