Mike Vorkunov, a friend of CBT and a sportswriter who writes for anyone and everyone in New Jersey and New York, has launched a new website called -30-, which you can find here.
Much of what’s on the site are Q-and-As with some of the biggest names in sportswriting, and this week, Vorkunov posted a questionnaire with Mike Vaccaro, a longtime journalist for the New York tabloids. And in that Q-and-A, Vaccaro shares a pretty incredible story about John Calipari.
First, let’s set the stage: This story is from 2004, which was just four years after Cal had taken over at Memphis. St. John’s, according to Vaccaro, was planning on putting together a significant push to bring the former UMass and New Jersey Nets head coach to the Big Apple, which is not something that Vaccaro was a fan of. Mike Jarvis and the Johnnies had just parted ways, in large part due to the fact that his players kept getting in trouble with the law, and that was before half the team was dismissed following an embarrassing incident with a stripper after a loss at Pittsburgh that winter. (The details are in the third paragraph here, for those that are wondering.)
So Vaccaro wrote this column, which painted a pretty clear picture of why, at this moment in time, hiring Calipari was not exactly the best idea for a program looking to clean up their image.
Well, the morning the column ran, my sports editor at the time, Greg Gallo, played his voice mail and there was Cal, shouting at peak volume, motherf****** me and motherf****** the Post and motherf****** Gallo, all but taunting him that he didn’t have the balls to call him back but here’s my cell phone anyway. Now one great thing about working for Gallo was: he didn’t give a s*** about who was pissed at us. So he basically shrugged his shoulders, dialed the number. Cal answered.
“John, Greg Gallo here. It sounds like you’re angry.”
Well, Cal basically repeated his entire voice mail, again at peak volume, and if you know Gallo you know he just let him go, didn’t interrupt, let him have his say. Then Cal said, “So let me ask you something, Greg: It’s OK with you if Mike Vaccaro wakes up one morning and says, ‘F*** it, I’m gonna go after Cal today, I’m gonna rip Cal a new a******.’ That’s acceptable to you?”
Gallo paused for a second and then said, “That’s why I pay him, John.”
And Cal, he just laughed and said, “Well, I guess that’s that.” And hung up.