The sky is falling. The four horsemen have finally come. Breaking Bad has ended! All signs of the apocalypse, none as scary as the news that the Knicks demoted Glen Grunwald late last week, and brought back one of the men responsible for a decade of despair. Steve Mills, former COO of MSG and the man who hired Isiah Thomas, is the new General Manager for the Knicks. Mills, a Princeton graduate, left the Knicks in 2009 (coincidentally the year before the team got relevant). While certainly smart and able, the news isn’t so awful because of the hiring, it’s awful because of the meaning behind the hiring.
First off, Glen Grunwald, third-runner-up in Executive of the Year voting, is out. No one is sure why. He did a decent job of bringing new talent to the team over the summer (World Peace, Udrih, Bargnani, etc). Grunwald will be missed, especially by close friend, coach Mike Woodson, but if we could survive the departure of the rebuild mastermind, Donnie Walsh, we can survive this. No, the real issue is symbolized by the dark storm clouds over midtown manhattan: James Dolan has retaken the helm.
James L. Dolan, an inheritor of billions, earner of none, has been making Knicks fans crazy for years. From his ridiculous media policies to his blatant headline grabbing decisions, he is not a loved (or intelligent) owner by a long shot. The only man who may be disliked more than Dolan, is Isiah Thomas, who plays the role of close friend and confidant to Chairman Dolan. Thomas and Dolan together manufactured the darkest time in Knicks’ history highlighted by terrible contracts and losing season after losing season. Mills’ hiring may be a sign that Dolan is retaking control.
When Dolan hired Donnie Walsh, he had ultimately accepted that his way of running things wasn’t working and it was time for someone who knew what he was doing. Walsh came in, fired Thomas, cleared out contracts and got the team in a position to succeed. That brings us to Grunwald, who was with the team for the Thomas years, but was credited with helping Walsh. Walsh left after supposedly not being allowed the autonomy he wanted — this really means that Dolan was starting to stick his nose where it didn’t belong. Grunwald took over and, in this writer’s opinion, did a great job for two years before ultimately being let go last week.
Dolan now brings back a man who does not have any real reason to head up a front office, but does have a reason to be automatically disliked by fans. It will be hard to give Mills much credit for the good or the bad this upcoming season. The roster is almost all Grunwald, and barring some unforeseen blockbuster, Mills will do little with player personnel during the season. The big question mark will come next summer with Mike Woodson having a team option on his contract and Carmelo Anthony up for a new contract. Will Mills make the same mistakes as Thomas did? Will Thomas have input!?
That is one of the biggest question marks for the future. With Dolan making moves that lead us to believe he is back to his old ways of thoughtless and reckless decision making, is there an actual chance Isiah Thomas can return to the Knicks? Dolan has been trying for years. Two years ago, the Knicks rehired Thomas as a consultant, but the NBA office blocked it due to Thomas’ role with FIU (he was fired since then). Will Dolan try it again? Is Mills the first step in bringing back a team of Dolan allies instead of great basketball minds? Only time will tell, but training camp (soon to be called the Big Apple Circus, if Dolan gets his way) begins on Tuesday, and New Yorkers are collectively holding their breath.