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Region native, L.A. talk show star Matt Smith has branched out nationally

Region native, talk show star Matt Smith has branched out nationally

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Region native, L.A. talk show star Matt Smith has branched out nationally
provided to the times Cleveland Cavaliers center Shaquille O’Neal, left, jokes around with Matt "Money" Smith at the KLAC studio in Los Angeles.

Matt "Money" Smith could coax a king cobra out of its basket and onto the interstate at rush hour.

Smith is a smooth talker who co-hosts the evening drive-time "Petros and Money Show" on KLAC-AM (570) in Los Angeles.

Petros is former USC running back Petros Papadakis. Since he and Smith -- longtime host of the "Lakers Zone" -- teamed up in January of 2007, they have become one of the most popular sports talk radio shows in the Southern California market.

Their non-scripted, hour-long funfest was picked up last January by Fox Sports Radio and now reaches 230 markets nationally.

Smith is the heavyweight of this tag team while a frequent contributor to ESPN's "Rome is Burning," doing voiceover for NFL Network Films, hosting the Los Angeles Lakers' pregame and postgame radio shows, and this fall being chosen to do football play-by-play for Compass Media's Big 12 and Pac-10 games as well as studio host for its NFL coverage.

"One of my great attributes probably is that I've always been a consumer. I just consume everything; the thirst for knowledge whether it's sports or politics or history or foreign language, art, English literature -- whatever you want to talk about," said Smith, who was born in East Chicago and is the father of three young daughters.

"Being able to hold my own in a conversation about nearly anything has helped me tremendously."

Give Matt "Money" Smith a phone and with one call, he can book just about any personality for PMS. The other day, Shaquille O'Neal visited KLAC and unexpectedly put Smith over one knee and playfully spanked him.

The Northwest Indiana guy who once replaced a young Jimmy Kimmel on L.A. radio and recently co-authored "The Great Book of Los Angeles Sports Lists" is now at the top of his game at age 36.

Go, Cubs, go

Smith's parents, Ralph and Antoinette, worked full-time jobs while Matt was growing up, so his grandmother, rabid Cubs fan Mary Zudock of Hammond, was his primary baby sitter.

"When I'd get home from school, the Cubs were always on. Of any television program, it was her favorite. She loved the Cubs," Smith said. "And that's how, by default, I became a Cubs fan instead of a Sox fan."

He idolized the Bears and Walter Payton; the Bulls and Orlando Woolridge, as awful as they were early in their NBA existence, and followed the short-lived USFL Chicago Blitz and quarterback Vince Evans.

Smith attended Kenwood Elementary and Eggers Middle School in Hammond, graduated from Morgan Park Academy in 1991, and double-majored in political science and speech communication at Pepperdine University in Malibu.

The callers have their say

Talk radio was meant to be a lively exchange of ideas, philosophies and opinions, and Smith adheres to that format the moment his microphone is switched on.

"I think guests appreciate that it's not just a list of questions that you rifle through and then you say goodbye," he said.

During college football season, USC coach Pete Carroll is a weekly guest. Mack Brown, Bob Stoops, Bobby Bowden and Kirk Ferentz are among other regulars.

"We get everybody on," Smith said. "With basketball ... all the big guys, especially Kobe (Bryant) and the Lakers since I do so well with the team.

"Baseball ... we found that writers tend to be better than players. Because it's such a long, arduous season, they just aren't as lively interviews as you'd like."

During the 2009 NHL playoffs, Smith and Petros had several Blackhawks and Red Wings on for a chat.

"I love hockey and soccer. They're my passions, so we do real well with those sports in relation to other shows because (guests) know it's our passion and we tend to get a 'first-look' versus other people who are just chasing what ends up to be a big story," Smith said.

The truth and nothing but

PMS has yet to interview Tiger Woods, but has no regrets.

"It's probably better that way because people who have Tiger on have to kinda tip-toe around Tiger and we don't," Smith said. "We have no interest in 'catering' to an athlete so he or she comes on.

"I'd want to talk about him throwing his clubs and acting immature on the course at times. We want to be able to hammer the topics we want to hammer."

Smith wants the truth, not a hug afterward.

"I think he's great. I really do," Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said. "I was with him most days before and after games and I think he's great with his presentation. I think he's professional.

"Matt's knowledge of sports is without question. He has a great personality and most importantly, since he's on the radio, he's interesting."

Kupchak and Smith have a strong working relationship, the former Lakers star referring to him as a "well-read, well-rounded human being."

There is one huge regret, however.

KLAC had been the Lakers' station for more than 30 years but is switching to ESPN radio this season.

"And I'm very saddened and disappointed that he's not going with us," Kupchak said.

SUNDAY SPECIAL

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