As most basketball fans know by now, the New York Knicks have been the laughing stock of the NBA for the better part of two decades. Sure, they’ve made the playoffs here and there, but they haven’t had any sustained success. The last time they made the playoffs was in 2013, and few times a few seasons prior to that, but they never really had a chance to advance even when they did make the playoffs. Are the Knicks just stuck with a bad owner?
It’s tough to answer that question. What constitutes a bad owner of a sports team? Some owners only care about the bottom line of their investment – how much money the team makes. Not all owners are willing to spend money the way a George Steinbrenner or Jerry Jones have. That’s what makes this such a tough question. One thing you can’t say about James Dolan is that he’s cheap. That man is not afraid to invest money into his team. The problem is, does he spend his money smartly?
That’s where this question gets a bit murky. Over the years, James Dolan has paid his players millions upon millions of dollars. If anything, he probably spends too much money on players that aren’t worth the money they get signed for.
So what about front office positions? He wasn’t afraid to spend money on Donnie Walsh, who actually was responsible for bringing in Amare` Stoudamire to New York which led to a small window of respectability and sustained success. It wasn’t until Dolan strong-armed Walsh into making the trade to acquire Carmelo Anthony mid season (when he was going to be a free agent at the end of the season and actually wanted to sign with the Knicks) that the relationship with Walsh quickly crumbled, eventually leading to a prolonged slump. Then Dolan tried his luck with Phil Jackson, who was hired not as a coach but as team president. And who knows how that would have worked out if players actually bought into Phil’s philosophies? It seemed like he was picking players (Porzingis, Ntilikina) to fit Jackson’s infamous “triangle offense.” But then Phil was strong-armed by Dolan to sign Carmelo Anthony long term, who never bought in, eventually became disgruntled and probably paved the way for some of Porzingis’s bad habits, causing him to become disgruntled and want out. We won’t even get into the Isaiah Thomas days.
How about coaches? Dolan paid plenty of money to guys like Larry Brown, Lenny Wilkens, Mike D’antoni, Mike Woodson just to name a few. The bottom line is, Dolan is at least willing to spend whatever it takes to put a winning product on the court. The problem is, he usually ends up spending money on the wrong players, the wrong coaches, the wrong GM’s, and the wrong Presidents. But maybe… just maybe… there’s finally some hope. He just recently hired Steve Stoute to help improve the Knicks brand to the younger stars. He just recently hired Leon Rose, an agent, as team President, similar to what the Lakers did with Rob Pelinka. Knick fans just have to… wait for it… be patient. AGAIN. But, at least there’s some hope this time. RJ Barrett seems like he has some potential to be a quality NBA player, and there’s a chance the people in the front office (provided they hire the right coach) can actually figure things out and restore some winning basketball back to Madison Square Garden, which the NBA would love. Will Knick fans continue chanting, “SELL THE TEAM!”? Or will Jim Dolan emerge as a hero? Stay tuned, Knick fans.