Is James Dolan the Jerry Jones of the NBA?

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 5, 2014

Dec 25, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks executive chairman James L. Dolan reacts during the fourth quarter of a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Madison Square Garden. The Thunder defeated the Knicks 123-94. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Let's just say that James Dolan doesn't exactly have the most stellar reputation among NBA circles. 

The New York Knicks owner has been the butt of jokes throughout the 2013-14 season as his team slowly falls down toward the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.

All of his mistakes and inadequacies are rising to the forefront of national attention, whether it's his overbearing style of management that prevents basketball minds from being basketball minds, his poor talent/personnel decisions or his desire to create headlines. 

Basically, he's the NBA's version of Jerry Jones.

All that's missing is him striding down out of the owner's box and standing on the sideline, directly in front of the scorer's table as each of his Knicks' games comes to a close. Oh, and Jones actually presided over a dynasty, as he steered the Dallas Cowboys to multiple championships in the 1990s before falling from grace over the last decade. 

Lack of Wins

Nov 10, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones prior to a game against the New Orleans Saints at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport

Both Jones and Dolan run some of the most prominent organizations in all of sports. 

The Cowboys, according to, are now the No. 3-most valuable franchise in the world, trailing only Manchester United and Real Madrid. Amazingly, they're now worth $1.85 billion, leading the website to write: 

Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones is a master salesman and has attracted the NBA All-Star game, the Super Bowl, a Manny Pacquiao fight, soccer matches, concerts and more to Cowboys Stadium since the $1.2 billion venue opened in 2009. It will host the 2014 NCAA Men's Final Four as well. 

Meanwhile, the Knicks are worth $780 million, making them the No. 2-most valuable franchise in the NBA, behind just the Los Angeles Lakers. They rank No. 43 overall, but only because NFL franchises are naturally more profitable and tend to trump the best the Association has to offer. 

Despite the prominence of these organizations, there just haven't been championships to boast about. And again, this is referring to Jones' recent tenure with the Cowboys, not the early portion of his time as the team's owner. 

Since Dolan took over in 1999, the Knicks have made the playoffs just six times. They advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals during his first year in charge (thanks, Patrick Ewing) and took major steps backward afterward. 

Dec. 17, 2012; New York, NY, USA; Tennis player John McEnroe (left) and MSG chief executive officer James Dolan attend the game between the New York Knicks and the Houston Rockets at Madison Square Garden. Houston won 109-96. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-

Since the turn of the century, New York has experienced a six-year postseason drought and didn't win a single playoff series until the 2012-13 season, when Carmelo Anthony carried the squad into the second round. 

Hardly befitting a team with this much money and national/international attention at its disposal, right? 

Well, the same can be said for the Cowboys over the identical time period.

In the 14 seasons that began in 1999-00, Dallas has advanced to the postseason just four times. Even in 2007, when Tony Romo and Terrell Owens led the squad to a 13-3 record, the Cowboys bowed out in the divisional round of the playoffs. 

The success just isn't there, even if the brand remains one of the most prominent and popular in the world. 

Abundance of Decisions, Many for the Wrong Reasons

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 11: Executive Chairman James L. Dolan and Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks pose during the press conference prior to the game against the Milwaukee Bucks on February 23, 2011 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.  NOT
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

Every since Jimmy Johnson stopped calling the shots for the Cowboys, allowing Jones to put his fingerprints all over the franchise, Dallas has taken a serious step backward. 

1990:  Head coach Jimmy Johnson (left) and owner Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys stand together prior to the start of a Cowboys game at Texas Stadium in Irving, Texas.  Mandatory Credit: Allen Dean Steele/Allsport
Allen Steele/Getty Images

Johnson was the team's head coach during the first two Super Bowl victories in the '90s, and he parted ways with his owner in 1994 after the development of an increasingly turbulent relationship between him and Jones. The third Super Bowl can still be partially credited to Johnson, as the starting lineup he built was mostly intact. 

But since he parted ways and the decisions he made ran their course, there has been nothing but lackluster play and late-season failure in Dallas. 

After the Cowboys were recently eliminated from postseason contention once more, Jones went on Dallas' 105.3 The Fan and delivered the following quote, as relayed by The Dallas Morning News' Jon Machota

The other thing is, that I think, for whatever the reason, in the NFL, we make a lot of the GM title, when in fact, it ought to be said, "Look, who is it that ultimately makes the decisions regarding a coach or ultimately, ultimately makes the decision regarding a player?"

Well, if you look at it, this is pro football and that's a financial decision. And as it would turn out, we're in a system that causes you to ultimately have to answer financially because it's called the salary cap, so somebody has got to make that decision. If you really wanted to say, whose being the biggest influence, it might not even be the general manager, it might be the person allocating the salary cap. Just that alone is more of an ownership function—the dollar—than probably most things on the team.

It's an understandable answer. 

Jones is a masterful businessman, and he's done a great job building the Cowboys into a moneymaking machine. But if he's making decisions based on profit and financial decisions, he's not going to win many games. 

At least it's better than what Dolan does. 

I'm honestly not sure what he uses as rationale for his decisions. Many of them just don't make much sense, yet he continues to call the shots.

Perhaps most telling of all was what he did with Glen Grunwald. 

Even though the former general manager had helped engineer a 54-win roster that was more successful than any other team under Dolan's supervision, the unpredictable owner fired him right before the season started. And he still expected his team to be competitive, which would normally be a sign of confidence in the roster that was put together, and thus the man who did the putting together. 

Dolan thinks that because he was the one pushing for Carmelo Anthony, because he has this cozy relationship with CAA sports agents, he is now qualified to make the big calls with the Knicks. James L. Dolan: Whose Knicks have won one playoff series since he became the big boss of the place in the spring of 2001 and began surrounding himself with his small band of corporate yes men, with the notable exception of Mr. Donnie Walsh.

That's just one quote from Mike Lupica, who wrote a scathing article about Dolan for the New York Daily News as soon as this inexplicable decision was made. 

Lately, it's just par for the course. 

Dolan insists on putting his fingerprints on everything the Knicks do or try to do. He blocked the trade for Kyle Lowry, for example, and was enraged that a member of his front office would leak details. 

How dare one of the yes-men say something other than a sentence affirming the merits of one of his decisions? 

We have slideshows recapping the worst mistakes that Dolan has made while in charge of the Knicks. We have opinions that revolve around prominent coaching candidates not being willing to consider New York as a job, simply because they couldn't make decisions: 

But this is about more than the fact that the businessmen are making the sports decisions. Both Jones and Dolan love pursuing shiny things.

For Jones, it's all about status symbols and reputations. 

Oct 21, 2012; Charlotte, NC, USA; Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones point to the fans prior to the game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

When was the last time you saw the Dallas owner in his box without another famous person beside him? He loves flaunting the people he gets to hang out with, and they're virtually omnipresent when he's on the television screen. 

However, let's zoom out from the owner's box. 

Have you seen the display of exorbitant wealth that is AT&T Stadium? Everything features state-of-the-art technology, and nothing is more eye-catching than the ginormous video screen. If you think a 70-inch television is big, how about a 2,100-inch TV? That's 175 feet, for those of you without a calculator. 

Flashy. Big. Shiny. Attention-drawing. 

Those are the words that influence Jones. Dolan is more in search of headlines, but the point still stands. He's more interested in making the popular decision, the one that generates the most headlines or the one that leads to the Knicks receiving as much attention as possible. 

And yet, he, just like Jones, claims that a championship is still the ultimate goal. 

"We look forward to his (Steve Mills) leadership," Dolan said after getting rid of Grunwald, via Lupica, "and believe he is the right person to help us reach our ultimate goal of winning an NBA championship."

Sounds pretty similar to the quote Jones delivered at the end of his aforementioned radio interview: "We're going to continue to work and try to take this team to where we all want to go, and that is competing for a Super Bowl."

Admirable words, but too bad neither goal will come true while these two men are in charge. 


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