As roundball’s revered Mecca looks to return to prominence and dominance, a team of homegrown hoopers are connecting capital with coaching to train the next generation of pros.
As the summer descends on New York City, the hoops culture approaches a boil. As asphalt sizzles and concrete cracks from Flushing to the Battery, countless kids will engage in pickup play from borough to borough in hopes of becoming the next blacktop baller to make it all the way to the pros.
However, ascending to the top of today’s game will take more than just showing up to one-on-one games against whoever happens to pull up to the park. While imagination and innovation will always be at the core of Big Apple basketball, the loaded landscape of the sport is truly global and much more competitive. For New York City to regain its footing as The Mecca in which Point Gods are immaculately conceived, the next generation must be led by those that have climbed the holy mountain of hoops.
Right on cue, The Program NYC is teaming up with Kenny Smith and the NBPA to host the Hamptons Basketball Skills Camp on June 25. Limited to 60 spots, co-founders Griffin Taylor and Jared Effron are bringing top-tier coaching to the city’s youth.
“Kenny’s going to headline it,” Effron told Boardroom of the two-time NBA champ and Turner Sports mainstay. “Cole Anthony’s locked in and Deuce McBride is locked in. It’s a more elevated, more elite coaching instruction with help from players with NBA experience — and someone like Book Richardson, who has only been available if you’re an elite player.”
New Yorkers will have access to every level of league excellence: Kenny “The Jet” Smith from Queens, a Manhattan-bred point guard in Anthony, Knicks guard Miles McBride, and Richardson, the head coach of the New York Gauchos AAU program.
So, why is it all taking place in the Hamptons?
Connecting Capital to Culture
When considering NYC’s rich history of top-tier talent, few hoopers hail from the Hamptons. The aspirational vacation spot is known for Diddy’s White Parties, not blacktop battles. It’s typically defined by leisure and luxury rather than grit, but Effron is quick to insist that’s not the full story.
“Basketball players love the Hamptons,” he said. “Cole’s out there on the weekends all the time, and Kenny’s wanted to do a camp out there.”
Due to the glamour of the seaside space, partners and advisors at The Program NYC like Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Goradia, and JJ Redick enjoy the beach breeze as much as the heat at the Rucker. While NBA players past and present spend the summer in the Hamptons relaxing, their clout and plans to pivot to ventures off the court make that same space a hotbed for networking.
“A lot of our existing investors are out there on the weekends and have kids that are interested in basketball,” Taylor said. “We figure some of the more high net worth families from New York City spend weekends out there. Those are some families we’d want as members and investors.”
This in turn paints the bigger picture of The Program NYC. While the July weekend in the Hamptons will offer a chance for dozens of kids to receive training from basketball’s best, the end goal is to open a training space in Brooklyn as a means to rebuild New York basketball from within. Having already raised $2.2 million in funding with plans for much, much more, Taylor and his team are already negotiating with sites for a 2023 open date.
As a native New Yorker and lifelong hooper, saving the city’s basketball scene is near and dear to his heart.
Thanks to his connections to the game and investors, he just might be able to make it happen.
Decades ago, Griffin Taylor arrived as an eighth-grader at the famous Five Star Basketball Camp with the same dreams as every other attendee: to go pro. Shortly after drills transitioned to scrimmages, that fantasy shifted.
“Ashton Gibbs threw an alley-top to Tyreke Evans,” Taylor recalls. “Tyreke literally dunked on my head. I realized at that point that I wasn’t going to make a living playing basketball, but I knew I loved the game.”
While Evans, the lob recipient, went on to win NBA Rookie of the Year honors not long after, Taylor continued on his parallel path. Playing D III hoops himself, the love of the game never left as an amateur athlete nor in New York’s competitive entrepreneurial environment.
“My first job out of college was helping Greg Marius run the famous Rucker Park tournament,” Taylor says. “I was going up to Harlem every night helping him with operations. Simultaneously, I was working in SoHo at an e-commerce start-up. I got the e-commerce company to sponsor a team at the Rucker.”
Over the course of his 20s, Taylor met “every single key stakeholder of New York City basketball.” Meanwhile, Jared Effron, his eventual co-founder at The Program NYC and the organization’s President, forged his own path.
Now a mainstay in men’s leagues around the city, Effron grew up in NYC honing his game in the park while spending his summers in The Hamptons. He’d attend Junior Knicks Camp on the East End of Long Island each holiday, playing competitively at the high school level before attending the University of Pennsylvania.
Between balling against NYC’s best in the winter and vacationing with its most affluent in the summer, Effron envisioned a place where his two worlds could collide.
“Jared has a network of some of the most influential and powerful private wealth and hedge fund people in New York City,” Taylor adds. “His investor network is second to none, and he shares the same love of New York City and basketball as I do.”
Taylor and Effron have the ability to still hoop recreationally in their 30s while earning in the city through their day jobs. So, why take on this venture?
“A big issue with New York is that we missed for 20 years,” Taylor says of NYC’s lack of recent NBA All-Stars and the view that the rest of the country (and world) catching up. “There aren’t that many role models in everyday New York City culture showing kids what it looks like being in the NBA and being back in the neighborhood.”
With The Program NYC, Taylor and Effron aim to leverage local wealth to build back New York City basketball in a holistic fashion. By connecting communities of all abilities under one roof, the sky becomes the limit for funding elite coaching while teaching lifelong lessons connected to health, hard work, and finance. By mixing a membership model with philanthropic access, kids across the city can come to camps, play in leagues, and compete to play for The Program NYC’s in-the-works academy team.
“We’re here to serve everyone,” says Taylor. “It doesn’t matter your skill level, your age as a child, or your socioeconomic status. Just reach out to us.”
The Program NYC aims to mesh players of all backgrounds and abilities in their Brooklyn space. Taylor and Effron envision building an elite basketball team much like the ones they aspired to be on back in their Five Star Camp days. While recent standouts like Cole Anthony have had to leave the city — UNC first, the Orlando Magic now — to take their game to new heights, The Program plans to build a powerhouse prep program that not only restores the pride of the city but also allows funders an entry point to the pipe dream of team ownership.
“There’s a whole group of investors that may not be able to own an NBA team, but we want to have a top-10 team in the country with our prep school academy,” Taylor says. “Building the Montverde or Sierra Canyon of New York? Investors can feel like they have a piece of a real team that they can root for with a national following.”
It all starts this month in the Hamptons.
The Program’s Grand Preview
On June 25, kids across The Hamptons will benefit from Book Richardson and Kenny Smith teaching them lifelong lessons. About a third of attendees will be brought out to the camp from scholarships, while Dan Gladstone and the NBPA will provide all campers with backpacks and basketballs.
“It’s the nicest gym in the Hamptons,” Taylor says, beaming. “We’re not just going to have rich kids from The Hamptons there. We’re going to have 10 or 20 kids without the socioeconomic means. We really want diversity and charitable trust. We’re trying to bring those best coaches and make them available to any kid who wants to get better. It doesn’t matter if you’re in high school or middle school, or if you’re great and just want to get better.”
“We’re working every day,” Taylor says. “We want to provide a one-day preview of what’s to come: bringing in incredible NBA figures with a vested interest in giving back to New York. This is what families can expect. You don’t usually get that all in one place.”
Open enrollment exists for the camp at The Program’s official website. All scholarship inquiries can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.