Bona grad Mike Vaccaro Discusses His Journey as a Sportswriter

St. Bonaventure alumni Mike Vaccaro (left) and Chris LaPlaca speak with SBU journalism students. Vaccaro is NY Post lead sports columnist. LaPlaca is ESPN senior VP of Corporate Communications. Credits: Richard Lee

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — Bob Lanier. Tom Stith.

Those were the first two names that came into Mike Vaccaro’s mind when I asked him to come up with an all-time St. Bonaventure fantasy basketball starting lineup.

Once those two players went off the board, Vaccaro, the lead New York Post sports columnist, paused for a minute to think about who he would select for the final three slots.

Sign Up for E-News

“(Andrew) Nicholson also has to be on the team, so that is a pretty good starting front line,” Vaccaro, a 1989 graduate of St. Bonaventure’s journalism program, said. “Greg Sanders is also on that team and probably Billy Kalbaugh. It is a different era, but he led those guys to a Final Four appearance.”

A starting lineup needs a head coach. Making that call was a toss-up for Vaccaro.

“For the longest time I would have said Eddie Donovan because he brought them to a level they have never been in before, but Coach Schmitt is getting there,” Vaccaro said. “I think in a year or two he’ll probably end up with the most wins of any coach, and that is the easy benchmark. What he has done outside of that is an incredible achievement and something people will remember for a long time.”

Vaccaro returned to his alma mater earlier this month as a panelist for the Jandoli School of Communication’s Dick Joyce Sports Symposium, a biennial event that provides a venue for students to connect with successful members of the sports journalism world.

He offered this advice: “Only you can believe in yourself.”

And he added, “No one is going to care about your career more than you are. Your parents and buddies are going to believe in you and that’s nice but no one is going to firmly believe in yourself more than you.You are going to be your own best advocate, and that is the most important thing.”

The Long Island native credited his own journey to becoming a top sports writer to what he learned as a student at St. Bonaventure and said that Bob Lanier was his first introduction to the alma mater they share.

“I knew about it because of Bob Lanier -- the name recognition and me being a big basketball fan since I was a kid. I did not know anything else about the school, but I knew I wanted to study communications wherever I went,” Vaccaro said. “The small school environment with the D-1 athletics sealed the package.”

At first, he planned to attend the University of Dayton.

“I originally sent a deposit to Dayton because my high school, Chaminade, had a connection with the university but switched last minute because Bonaventure offered me a small scholarship,” Vaccaro recalled. “It was a small amount, but it was a start, and I knew that I would have a connection with the professors right away.”

During his four years at St. Bonaventure, Vaccaro got his foot in the door of journalism with a summer internship at the area daily, the Olean Times Herald.


“Everything I’ve become I owe to that internship,” he said. “It was just the greatest lesson in daily journalism, finding stories and producing stories, not only sports but about interesting stuff and because of that, I was able to get that first job.”


Vaccaro did not start out covering sports in that internship.

“… a couple of weeks into it I ended up switching with the guy in sports,” he said. “Without that first break, who knows where your path leads you? Getting that first job was so important, and I owe everything to the Times Herald for showing faith in me.”

Attending big sporting events is Vaccaro's favorite part of the job at the Post, which he started in 2002.

“What I love is that I get to go to big events. Essentially my job is to go to big events and kind of explain to my readers what is what like to be there, whether it was the Final Four in College Basketball, Super Bowl or the World Series, specifically when a New York team is involved,” Vaccaro said.

 “We thrive on the positive news when the Mets go to the World Series or Giants are in the Super Bowl," he added. "You cannot find a New York Post in the newsstand anywhere in town because they are all sold out already. Our numbers go berserk online.”

Not all sports stories can be positive, but positive news is far more valuable, he noted.

“Positive news is always better, rather than writing that the Mets stink or ripping the Yankees for not making a trade or even killing the Knicks because they are hopeless. We don’t root for the teams because that would be wrong also but it does not bother us when they do well because that’s good for our business and that is what it is all about,” Vaccaro said.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Greater Olean

Understanding the Tough Times at The Buffalo News Can Lead to Brighter Future for the Newspaper 

Given the fiscal state of the news industry, the changes underway at The Buffalo News are not unique. To offset revenue losses, newspapers across the nation have bid farewell to longtime reporters, eliminated once-popular sections and removed jobs that involved covering important beats, such as education, the environment and transportation. 

What makes the ...

Grandpa Practiced Sustainability

My grandpa was of the Depression Era. Sustainability wasn’t “a thing” back then — it was just the way you lived. Though he was raised in a time when you were thankful to be able to put a good meal on the table, he likely had a standard of life that we would consider average or middle class today. He didn’t grow up in a slum or shanty town, but he did understand the ...

'March for Our Lives' Started A Historic Movement

Shoes on the ground. People chanting. Signs held high. Music playing in the background.

It is the start of a historic movement. A moment when every race, gender and age came together as one. A movement that involved change and a March for Our Lives.

As a student journalist going out to the world, taking part in a national movement truly moved me. Reporting the significance of March for ...

Upcoming Events

Tue, June 19, 9:00 AM

The ReHabilitation Center, Olean

ReHab Center Schedules Hiring Event for June 19

Business & Finance

Tue, June 19, 12:30 PM

Olean Public Library, Olean

Brown Bag Book Club


Tue, June 19, 6:00 PM

Olean Public Library, Olean

Pride Month Film Series: 'To Wong Foo, Thanks for ...

Arts & Entertainment

Olean General Announces Schedule for June 21 Strawberry Festival

June 13, 2018

OLEAN, NY -- The 32nd annual Olean General Hospital Auxiliary Strawberry Festival will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., June 21 on the front lawn of the hospital, 515 Main St. 

In addition to the more than 80 pounds of strawberries used to serve strawberry shortcake, the event will offer sausage sandwiches, hot dogs, Texas hots, a baked potato bar, drinks, baked goods, craft items, ...

'A Day in the Life': One Transportation Supervisor Serves Portville and Olean

PORTVILLE, NY – A whiteboard with dozens of destinations and vehicle numbers written in various colors sits inside the Portville bus garage, ready to be changed at any moment. David Youngs, the transportation supervisor of the Portville and Olean School Districts, knows that before 2 almost every afternoon, he is likely to receive an email changing the entire meticulously planned ...

'A Day in the Life' Follows Della Moore of the African American Center for Cultural Development

OLEAN, NY – When Della Moore walks down the street, she greets everyone she passes and makes sure to ask, “How are you doing?” 

From the moment I joined her at the 7-Eleven on a cloudy, cold December morning until we finished making our stops along State and North Union streets, she remained ...

'Day in the Life' Follows Warehouse Selector Justus Elliot

OLEAN, NY -- For Justus Elliot, time and pace are essential. As a warehouse selector for Olean Wholesale Grocery Co-Op, most of the 21-year-old’s job calls for efficiency.

“Everything is time-based," Elliot explained. "One hundred percent is the norm, and it’s what we work for every day. If our score is less, then we are moving too slow, and we kick it into ...

Happy Veterans Day, Mom

What began as an attempt to boost her GPA soon turned into a 22-year career for my mom, Ramona Lee Discavage.

On the first day of her freshman year at St. Bonaventure University in 1989, members of the Army ROTC Seneca Battalion helped incoming freshmen move their stuff into their dorm rooms.  Afterward, they invited all of the freshmen to a lunch.

“When they described the ...

Lynn Kemp: ‘Best Soldier I Could Be’

Lynn Kemp is nearing 95 and knows he has lived a good life.

“The good Lord has been awful good to me,” recalled the lifelong resident of Shinglehouse, Pennsylvania. “I never refused an order. I tried to be the best soldier I could be. I don’t know what your relationship is with God, but mine is pretty close.”

Born Oct. 29, 1920, Lynn grew up in a home on Turkey ...

WW II museum provides role models for young people

When Steve Appleby asks area students if they know Snoop Dog, Eminem, Kanye West, the Kardashians, Parris Hilton or Miley Cyrus, they answer yes. Then Appleby will ask which of them knows Jason Dunham is, and the students will not have a clue.

Appleby will explain that Jason Dunham was a Marine from Scio, in Allegany County, New York, who was killed in Iraq in 2006 after jumping on a grenade ...