"The Knicks never do what you expect. They're always full of surprises."
That's how one NBA agent reacted to Thursday's news of Glen Grunwald's sudden demotion from New York Knicks general manager to "advisor," as the team called it, with the hiring of Steve Mills as GM and president.
By Friday morning, it was still unclear why Grunwald lost his job, as several league insiders said he was a "great guy" and had done a good job building the roster. With the Knicks finishing second in the Eastern Conference last season and making some decent moves this summer, the timing definitely felt off.
"It was a shock, especially so close to the upcoming season," one source close to key members of the organization said.
"What are they doing?" another source close to the team asked. "Why is Glen gone three days before camp? The J.R. Smith contract/injury?," referring to the team re-signing the Sixth Man Award winner and then awkwardly announcing a week later that he had surgery.
But Grunwald's new title, "advisor," also begs this question: What if his new role has something to do with helping groom assistant GM Allan Houston to eventually become New York's GM? Mills, too, could have been hired to tutor Houston.
Former Knicks player Chris Copeland, now with the Indiana Pacers, sensed there could be a bigger opportunity in store for Houston.
"I think he's the next in line," Copeland said. "I'm sad for Glen—I have nothing but the utmost respect for Glen; I like Glen and I think he's a great guy—but I'm extremely excited for Allan if he does get that opportunity. I think he'll do a great job there.
"He's an outstanding, classy guy, and he knows what he's doing. He understands the game better than most. He's obviously played it at a high level, and...as far as basketball IQ, I don't think it gets much better than him."
Houston went from being a Knicks All-Star to a special assistant to former GM Donnie Walsh to an assistant GM with the franchise. He has credibility and has the respect of the players and people who matter in the organization, including owner James Dolan. It's safe to say Houston isn't going anywhere—and only moving up the corporate ladder to GM.
"I do think that," a source familiar with the team's decision-making process said. "I've heard it from people inside (the organization) mention it. It seems obvious to me honestly."
With the help of four individuals who have consulted with Houston and Grunwald—some quoted as sources above—Bleacher Report gained a unique perspective into Houston's possible future in New York. The overall consensus is that he will likely be the Knicks GM one day. When that is? Who knows.
"When taking a step back and analyzing (Mills' hiring), it actually makes sense, especially if Allan is to eventually become the GM of the Knicks. By working under Glen for a couple of years now, Allan has been getting an inside look and education at the engineering approach to the mathematical side of making a team an economic success.
"And now, with a few years as an understudy beneath Mills, it would appear that Allan will now get an inside look and education to becoming a true blue-blood sports business professional in New York. Steve has the track record and pedigree of a top sports executive in the current sports and entertainment market. With those two experiences to add to his resume, above and beyond his deep-rooted ties to the Knicks organization, I believe Allan will be primed to become the GM in New York."
"Allan has a very deep understanding of how relationships can work side by side in a negotiation to maximize the business opportunities on the table—not only for the deal he is currently working, but more so for the deals that will need to be made down the road. He has the God-given gift of vision, which in this nearsighted, cut-throat type of business seems to be all too often forgotten.
"When you are working with Allan, he makes you feel that you are as important and relevant to getting good business done as he is, which in turn creates an environment of mutual respect, where you want to work with him to get the deal done."
"Dolan has always taken care of his former players, especially stars, which Allan was. I guarantee you he's close to Allan just like Isiah Thomas and other former Knicks."
"His communication skills and ability to evaluate talent. In this current climate of the NBA where everything is weighted on advanced metrics, Allan, from his experience as a player, knows how to evaluate talent and he understands team chemistry. His experience the past few years in the front office under Glen and Donnie I'm sure has proved invaluable for him. He's also a great mentor. That skill set has been lost in most front offices today."
"It's always a Dolan decision. I think Houston will be the next GM, but maybe someone hires him away. I don't think Mills would do this if it was a quick fix, but who knows. But I think Allan is a charismatic guy who has put the work in and has a great rapport with players around the league."
"I always liked him. A strength of his is being understanding of things from the player's side, plus the fact that he is younger, still in shape. I feel like younger guys can connect with him well. It's a lot easier for a GM to have a sense of players' personalities, quirks, etc. when players are more open with him. I'm not sure the best way to put it, but a 55-year-old white dude (Grunwald) or Allan...which one can best get players to be themselves around him?"
"I think he would make a great Knicks GM. He gets along well with agents and he's respected among peers."
"He's always straightforward and honest. He's a good guy and I know he is very well-liked."