This month the College of the Canyons men¹s basketball team will retire jersey No. 1 in recognition of former longtime head coach Lee Smelser and his more than 30 years of service to the college.
The College of the Canyons Lee Smelser Jersey Retirement Ceremony will take place Saturday, December 27, prior to the team’s 7 p.m. tipoff with visiting Fullerton College in the Cougar’s first round game of the 20th Annual Cougar Holiday Classic basketball tournament.
As part of the celebration the COC Athletics Department invites all of Coach Smelser’s former players, staff members, friends and coaching colleagues to attend the ceremony.
“Coach Smelser is a man of integrity and someone that I have always admired as both a basketball coach and person. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work for and with him and am honored to participate in this ceremony,” said COC men’s basketball head coach Howard Fisher.
Simply put, the name Lee Smelser is synonymous with College of the Canyons basketball.
A member of the COC Athletic Hall of Fame’s 2005 inaugural class, Smelser built the college’s basketball program from the ground up, beginning with the college’s opening in 1969.
In the 31 consecutive years of coaching that followed, Smelser established a thriving, vibrant program that continues to be successful today.
During his tenure at COC, Smelser guided his teams to five conference championships (1977-78, 84-85, 90-91, 91-92 and 93-94), producing 73 All-Conference players along the way and earning Conference Coach of the Year honors four times.
Between the 1990-91 and 1993-94 seasons, Coach Smelser’s teams amassed an amazing 80-42 record en route to three consecutive Western State Conference championships.
After the 2000-01 campaign, Smelser retired as head coach of the men’s basketball team, having compiled a career record of 455-512. However, he continued to serve as an assistant on current head coach Howard Fisher’s team for two more seasons.
“His handprint is recognizable in our basketball program even today,” Fisher said. “The number of former players and coaches who remain in contact with Coach Smelser and still support the program speaks volumes about what he has meant to COC basketball and our community, as well as the influence he has had on me as a coach and a person.”
Smelser also worked in a number of other capacities during his 33 years at COC, serving as the college’s athletic director for five years and head golf coach for two seasons. In addition, Smelser launched the college’s softball team in 1984 and served as head coach through the 1985 season.
In 2002, Smelser was inducted into the California Community College Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Admission to the 20th Annual Cougar Holiday Classic basketball tournament and Lee Smelser retirement ceremony is $5. Tickets can be purchased at the door on the night of the event. For more information please contact Howard Fisher at (661) 362-3201.