Knicks Owner Dolan Breaks His Silence, but Leaves Plenty of Questions Unanswered

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Knicks Owner Dolan Breaks His Silence, but Leaves Plenty of Questions Unanswered
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NEW YORK — The longest streak in New York sports came to an end Friday, when James L. Dolan, the mercurial, media-averse owner of the Knicks, discussed his team at length in the New York Post.

Dolan had not given an interview on anything Knicks-related since March 12, 2007, a span of 2,447 days.

In the intervening years, Dolan has dismissed three general managers and two coaches, raised ticket prices by astronomical amounts and settled a sexual-harassment lawsuit. He has repeatedly infuriated fans with his meddling and his general disregard for their feelings.

By going silent for nearly seven years, Dolan avoided accountability for the Isiah Thomas debacle, the Stephon Marbury mess, the mysterious departure of Donnie Walsh and the stunning decision to let Jeremy Lin walk away, among other matters.  

In his interview with the Post’s Mike Vaccaro, Dolan did address a few current issues of concern.

He expressed support for coach Mike Woodson, who is under fire from fans after a 3-8 start, saying “I have a lot of confidence in Woodson.” He defended his $100 million investment in Amar'e Stoudemire, despite the degradation in Stoudemire’s knees—an eventuality long predicted by medical experts.

To the great relief of Knicks fans, Dolan also insisted that he would not rehire Thomas.

Explaining his curious decision to dismiss general manager Glen Grunwald on the eve of training camp, Dolan cited a consulting firm’s recommendation to modernize the team’s methodology—and implied that Grunwald was too old-fashioned to lead the charge.

Jennifer Pottheiser/Getty Images

As is often the case with Dolan, the explanation lacked any coherence.

Grunwald, a lawyer by trade and a creative thinker by reputation, was the first Knicks executive to invest in analytics. He was well versed in the intricacies of the collective-bargaining agreement.

Also curious was Dolan’s rationale for dismissing Grunwald in late September. Dolan called it “a lull period,” asserting—inaccurately—that teams cannot make trades until Dec. 15. (In fact, only players who signed free-agent deals over the summer are subject to the Dec. 15 restriction.)

Dolan granted Vaccaro one hour—hardly enough time to delve into all of the Knicks’ current controversies, much less those from the recent past. That was surely intentional.

On Twitter, Vaccaro conceded that there were issues he couldn’t get to. He denied speculation that his questions had to be preapproved, or that there were any conditions for the interview.

Having made Dolan available to one reporter, for one hour, the Knicks can now claim that Dolan is not avoiding the media or shirking accountability. But that would be a flimsy claim. So many questions remain.

If Dolan would make himself available for another hour or two, here is what we would ask:

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

• Carmelo Anthony plans to opt out next summer. Are you worried that he will leave? What do you have to do to keep him?

• Carmelo will be eligible for a five-year $129 million contract. He will be 35 years old in the final year. Is he worth it?

• Creative Artists Agency (CAA) represents Carmelo, J.R. Smith, several members of your front office and coach Mike Woodson. How much influence does CAA have over Knicks operations?

• I’ve reported that William “Worldwide Wes” Wesley, a CAA agent, has become your most trusted advisor. How would you describe your relationship? How much influence does he have?

• Several media outlets reported that Woodson was forced to fire his longtime agent, Joe Glass, and hire CAA in order to get the job in 2012. Can you comment?

• You said in the Post interview that this Knicks team can win a championship. Why, then, did you fire Glen Grunwald, who built this roster?

• Steve Mills, who replaced Grunwald, has never worked in basketball operations. He also was the person responsible for hiring Isiah Thomas. What convinced you that Mills was the best person for the job? How much of a factor was his friendship with William Wesley?

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• In the Post interview, you referred to yourself as a “patient” owner and said that impatience can “destabilize” a team. Can you explain, then, why the Knicks have had five general managers and six coaches in the last 10 years?

• Your franchise is notorious for making the “win-now” moves, sacrificing draft picks and young players for quick fixes. Have you considered a different, more methodical approach?

• Why did Donnie Walsh abruptly resign in 2011? Friends of his have said he was tired of your meddling in basketball decisions. Can you comment?

• Why did Scott O’Neil, widely regarded as one of the smartest business executives in the league, abruptly resign as Garden president last year?

• Why didn’t you re-sign Jeremy Lin? It has been cast as a financial decision, but you never hesitated to spend on your roster before. Indeed, you have been one of the NBA’s top luxury tax payers for a decade. What changed?

• Many Knicks fans were outraged and saddened by the decision to let Lin leave. Are you aware of this? Does it matter to you?

• Iman Shumpert, your best young player, is said to be on the trading block. There are reports he’s being shopped because you don’t like him. Can you clarify the situation?

• How much pressure have the Nets put on you, with their relocation to Brooklyn and their flashy roster?

• And since we haven't been allowed to ask you a question in nearly seven years: Do you regret not settling the Anucha Browne Sanders lawsuit? Do you regret hiring Isiah Thomas and letting him stay as long as he did? Why were you so loyal, given the disastrous results?

• And finally: Why have you refused to take questions from reporters for 2,447 days?

Never mind. I think I know the answer.

 

Howard Beck covers the NBA for Bleacher Report.

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