Tony Kornheiser compares John Calipari to Sonny Corleone


In recent days a story told by college basketball writer and ESPN 92.9 FM Memphis radio host Gary Parrish has made waves within the college basketball world, as it focused on a recruiting battle won by Kentucky head coach John Calipari three years ago. The full story, which was told by Parrish Tuesday, can be heard here and below are some words from that show.

In short, a few years ago Calipari beat out an unnamed coach for a recruit, one the coach in question had been after for more than two years. Of course, this led to some hurt feelings and then a conversation for the ages between the two in Las Vegas.

“There had been a coach who’s been recruiting a kid HARD, every minute of the summer, every game the kid was at…for about two years. Saw this kid play every game, thought he had him locked up” Parrish said on his show. “John Calipari comes in, had not watched the kid one time the previous summer, came in late the subsequent summer and saw the kid one time.

“So, if you stack it up, this one coach has been to 30 games this kid’s played, been recruiting him hard for two years. John Calipari’s been to one game the kid played, been recruiting him hard for two weeks…kid committed to Kentucky.”

One can certainly understand the frustration that comes with missing out on a prospect you’ve been recruiting for that long, and it happens within recruiting. But the fact of the matter is that there are programs that have the “name brand” that allows them into most recruits’ homes regardless of how long they’ve shown interest, and Kentucky (especially under Calipari) is one of those programs.

And as Parrish’s story went, this didn’t prevent said coach from venting to others in the profession about losing out on a kid to Calipari.

“The coach started yapping in basketball circles, ‘he must have cheated,’ ‘there’s no way they could’ve gotten that kid,’ ‘I’ve been on him for two years,’ ‘Calipari came in, barely knew his name and gets that done,'” Parrish continued. “John confronts this guy in Vegas, because he heard the guy had been talking.

“What I was told by sources who witnessed the conversation is that John told this guy (paraphrasing), ‘I know what you’ve said, I’ve heard it from enough people. I want you to know that yes I am the type of guy who can come in and take whatever guy I want from you. You can spend your whole life recruiting a kid, and at the end of the day if I want him I’ll get him. If we want him, we’ll get him. Don’t ever get that confused. Be appreciative when I don’t come in and get your guy.'”

While some may see this story as a negative one, there are others who would up liking Calipari even more after hearing it. One such person is Tony Kornheiser of ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption,” who on Wednesday compared the coach to Sonny Corleone according to The Sporting News.

“I loved Calipari until today. I love him 10 times more now because he’s established that he is a gangster,” Kornheiser said. “He thrives in it. He wants to be in it. He’s at the alpha dog school in Kentucky. He’s the alpha dog coach and he’s, he’s Sonny Corleone.” Sonny Corleone, of course, is one of the characters in the movie “The Godfather.”

While there are those who may argue that being at a school like Kentucky allows for a coach to be able to swoop in “late” for high-level talent, there’s a difference between having the cache to do something and actually getting it done. Calipari got it done in this particular instance, and it isn’t as if the recruit in question had committed to the other program beforehand either.

To quote Pachanga from the film “Carlito’s Way,” “it be’s like that sometimes.”