At a time when the New York Knicks are in the press for the wrong reasons, stumbling to a 3-8 record, the ownership of the team and their home, Madison Square Garden, have come to attention. James Dolan, president of the Knicks, Rangers, and MSG, has received a lot of heat for mismanagement of the team. Ever the controversial figure, the oft-seen, rarely heard Dolan has been criticized for his impatience in trying to build the Knicks into a contender.
Last summer, of course, he refused to re-sign Jeremy Lin, tax money and personal issues seemingly the reasons why. Then, after a successful 54-win season, he signed off on a trade for Andrea Bargnani, who has played well, but cost several key assets including three draft picks to acquire him. He and the rest of the front office never pursued another backup big man, preferably a young, able, defensive-minded player to back up Tyson Chandler who is now out with a fractured leg. He relinquished the ability to sign such a player by guaranteeing Chris Smith — a non-NBA talent — a roster spot to thank J.R. Smith for his loyalty. And, in the midst of a disappointing season, he is shopping Iman Shumpert, the Knicks’ best perimeter defender, for frontcourt help — a move that angers most fans.
So, yeah, people aren’t pleased with James Dolan. And then, out of nowhere, James Dolan sat down with Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post for his first interview in seven years. Here are some highlights:
MV: How patient will you be with [Mike Woodson]? He understood when he took the job the expectations that go with it. Will you give him a long rope?
JD: I have a lot of confidence in Woodson, and one thing I can say about Mike is he has the respect of all the players. They all respect him. And he treats them fairly and relatively equally, and that’s part of where the respect emanates from. And those are hard things to get from a coach. When a coach loses a team … that’s when a coach is kind of done.
“Relatively equally.” Oh, like giving J.R. Smith a leash the length of Manhattan but criticizing Iman Shumpert, or playing Pablo Prigioni for fewer minutes than he deserves, or letting Carmelo Anthony hijack an offense. Got it.
MV: A few days before training camp you changed general managers; why do that so close to the start of camp? Did something change from the start of summer to the end?
JD: I didn’t time it, per se, like that. I’m surprised other folks were surprised about this. The general manager’s work doesn’t really occur at that time of year. If you’re going to change general managers that’s probably the right time to do it. The next available trade date is Dec. 15. You’ve just finished free agency and all that. It’s a lull period. The timing didn’t really have much to do with that. It was more about an initiative I have going on with both teams that I hired McKinsey & Company [a Manhattan-based global management consulting firm] for, because as I’ve gotten to look at both our organizations, it’s become apparent that we really need to reprocess both teams. We were using a lot of — not old, but “classic” methods and now with technology, and what’s available to a team to help improve, I didn’t think we were taking advantage of those things.
This is actually pretty interesting. Glen Grunwald did an excellent job as GM, but apparently, his style was a little old school for the Knicks. It’s a vague statement, but one could conclude that Dolan and company are interested in some the advanced analytics that the game now offers. If so, it’s weird then that the Knicks sign guys like Raymond Felton, Bargnani, Smith, or Anthony, none of whom are exactly advanced analytics sweethearts.
MV: I assume you don’t read everything written about you, hear everything said about you, don’t spend time on message boards …
JD: To be honest with you, Mike, I barely read the paper. There’s just too much written … unless Barry [Watkins, MSG’s executive VP for communications and administration] says, ‘Here, read this …’ (laughs) If it’s on the back page, I obviously see it. And the thing is, whether it’s positive or whether it’s negative, it’s rarely insightful to me. My job is to know more than the writers.
MV: And you have sit-downs like this so infrequently …
JD: When it comes to criticism I always think, OK, let’s look back at which New York sports owner was loved by the fans when they owned the team? Do you know any?
MV: Well, people speak reverentially about George Steinbrenner …
JD: But not when he was there … (laughs)
MV: Not until the end …
JD: There you go.
James Dolan thinks he will be revered when he is no longer president of the Knicks (whenever that may be). Okay, cool, yeah, that’s totally fai- HAHAHAHA.
MV: Do you think [the criticism of Isiah Thomas is] unfair? He did lose a lot of games here.
JD: He lost a lot of games! OK. Do I think he deserves another shot? Yeah. It just can’t be here. And I think he’s talented. I think he’s particularly talented at finding basketball talent. But I think he’s probably dismayed at this point. But I don’t see him coming back to New York. I couldn’t do that to him, and I couldn’t do that to the organization. He would probably do it as my friend but I couldn’t do it to him or his family. And you know what the press would do here. We’re interested in getting better and that situation would be such a distraction that it would actually hinder our ability to get better.
This is the second time this season that the Knicks’ front office has dispelled the idea of Thomas coming back. In an earlier quote, Dolan says that Thomas has more going on in his life than basketball now. It seems we’re safe from Thomas returning.
Check out the entire interview as it’s well worth a look. In a strange way, it doesn’t paint Dolan as demonic as he may seem, but there isn’t a lot in there to feel comfrotable about. There’s a lot of interesting information, and everyone should read it because it won’t happen again until 2020.
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