Sin City Sports Spotlight: Tony Cordasco
Tony Cordasco is a staple of the Las Vegas cultural scene and has been for many years. From nightlife to marketing, from broadcasting to sports, Tony possesses a dynamic and endearing personality. He can engage anyone in a quick conversation in just about anything from football to fine dining. Today, he has established himself as one of the leading voices on the Las Vegas sports landscape. I recently sat down with Tony for a virtual chat to highlight his background and learn more about his rise to notoriety as one of Las Vegas’ sports experts.
Tony may be a kid from Jersey, but he planted his roots in Las Vegas when he decided to attend UNLV several decades ago. Broadcasting at UNLV was in its infancy at the time and Tony was able to earn his start as a sports broadcaster at the college. Tony told me that one of his first official gigs was an interview with the Defensive Coordinator for UNLV Football.
As he noted, the college radio station was brand new back then. He served as the Sports Director for a while and eventually became Program Director. While sharing these early college ventures with me, he smiled remembering that he also enjoyed dabbling in some music shows as well. In fact, as he reminded me with his hallmark grin, his passions are both music and sports.
Through his early work at UNLV in the fledgling broadcasting circle, he supplanted himself not just as a prominent voice at the university but as a Sin City local as well. He jokingly agrees with the assessment that “his parents dropped him off at UNLV and he never left.”
Early on in his career, Tony’s dream broadcasting job was to become the play-by-play announcer for UNLV basketball. He recalled watching the well known UNLV Runnin’ Rebels back in the 1970s and being enamored by the broadcasts. And although Cordasco is now so loyal to his adopted hometown, Tony also remembered that he once aimed to cover Oklahoma football. “Those were the teams back then: the Runnin’ Rebels in basketball and Oklahoma football,” Cordasco stated.
One of Tony’s early big breakthroughs came in the late 1980s when he was, in his words, “the fill-in guy,” for UNLV broadcasts. He continued to revel in this role for several years and take on new ones as he became more familiar with the Vegas sports landscape as a whole, which at that time, largely revolved around UNLV athletics (especially basketball).
Yet, in 2000 his career took him in a new direction. What would become an indelible company over time was just attempting to establish itself in Las Vegas: Red Bull Energy Drink. Tony spent many years with Red Bull growing the brand to its successes in the city. “I was with Red Bull and it was very busy; it was a wild ride,” Cordasco recalled. He continued with the company for several years to come.
But his passion for sports broadcasting never left him. In 2013, his broadcast connection to UNLV was reignited. “This was the moment when live streaming was just becoming a thing,” Cordasco reflected. Tony was right back where he started so many years before. He broadcast football and basketball games and even was involved in some television work. Indeed, he found a niche in live streaming. “The live stream is a professional environment but also looser. You have the ability to have fun. And calling games for the Alma Mater is always fun,” he added.
Tony’s voice has become a mainstay with UNLV sports coverage. His passion is evident and his engagement with the game at hand is undeniable. As he put it, “Ultimately, I watch so much film to prepare. If you know the team, players, coaches and their stories, that’s what matters.”
After years of covering UNLV sports, I asked Tony to consider the current state of the Runnin’Rebels basketball program which has endured many changes in the last decade. In his estimation, “Marvin Menzies was not as visible or dynamic in the local community. Today, we have Coach “O” (Otzelberger) and he’s all about basketball. He has laser focus.” Tony portrays clear enthusiasm about the prospects for the basketball program as he will continue to have a front-row seat to its transformations. “He’s(Coach Otzelberger) got a nucleus of guys who know the dedication he wants. The program is headed in the right direction,” Cordasco added.
I also wanted to get Tony’s take on the present sports landscape in Sin City since the impact of Covid-19 slowed business as usual. Tony’s passion for his long time town resonated through his answer, as like so many Las Vegans, seeing the ascending direction of the sporting world halt, has been extremely difficult.
“The Golden Knights trajectory was going up with all the pieces. . . And at this point, everyone would also be ramping up for the Raiders. . . But the excitement had to be tempered. It’s affected a lot of live sports fans; it’s just not touchable for fans,” he solemnly remarked.
Both Tony and I took time to lament the uncertainty of the sports scene in Vegas. However, I also wanted to hear his thoughts on the future of sports in Sin City, a future that many Las Vegans hope to only see grow over time.
He excitedly exclaimed,“Sky is the limit! An NBA team is top of the list! We will get close in the next five to ten years. And the Raiders for the 2025 Super Bowl; that’s the next available one and very much a reality. And I’ve been predicting an NHL All Star Game in 2022 or 2023.”
Tony also shared that the city of Las Vegas has pitched some concepts for more NCAA Championship series to be held in the city such as the Final or Frozen Fours. Additionally, he mentioned that Las Vegas could possibly be the host city for future Women’s NCAA Championship basketball (particularly “Sweet 16” games). “The city can host major events here,” he confidently stated.
At the very end of my conversation with Tony, I asked him to play my “Rapid Fire 7” game. I wanted his hot-takes and expertise on 7 of today’s most exciting stories in the sports world within Vegas and at-large:
Me: What was your first reaction when you heard about Patrick Mahomes’ massive $400+ million contract?
Tony: Definitely worth it. He’s the best athlete and quarterback.
Me: Will Tom Brady’s Bucs be over or under 10 wins this season?
Tony: He’ll struggle a little bit in the beginning; not knowing the system and not enough reps. It’s going to be a big game when they come to Vegas. Raiders will beat them. I’ll say 9.5/10.
Me: This season’s NBA champion will be?
Tony: Lakers. LeBron is going to rise. He’s a physical specimen. For a vet, the rest will do him well.
Me: Will the Dodgers and Yankees meet in this year’s World Series?
Tony: As a Yankees fan, I’m concerned with the AL, about scheduling. Can the Dodgers pitching hold up? Just not sure though about the Yankees. . . Dodgers can make it. There will be a ton of pitching, bull pen will be so important.
Me: Who are your top 3 NBA players currently in the league?
Tony: LeBron; I’m a LeBron guy. Also, I’ve become a fan of Ja Morant; he’s clutch, couple game winners this season. I used to like Kyrie Irving. . . But I’d have to go with Steph Curry as my third.
Me: After making it so close to the championship series last season, will the Vegas Aces make it this year?
Tony: We don’t know what final rosters will look like. Kelsey Plum got injured and now she’s out for the season. The team goes back to the Pre-Cambage age. They’re going to have to play team basketball. So I’m not sure. We don’t know what other teams will look like. There could be a Cinderella.
Me: If you’re about to play a 3-on-3 basketball game and get to choose 2 former UNLV Runnin’ Rebels players to be on your team,who do you choose?
Tony: Larry Johnson and Armen Gilliam. They could clear out so I could take the shot.
(As Tony finished his answer, we both shared a laugh when I reminded him, “Yes Tony, but then you’d have to make the shot.”)
Many thanks to Tony Cordasco for his time and thoughtful responses. To listen to Tony, tune in to the “Saturday Sports Beat” on CBS Sports Radio each Saturday morning from 8-10 am on 1140AM in Las Vegas and nationally on the Radio.com app. You can also follow Tony on Twitter and Instagram @tonydasco.