Given the current state of the New York Knicks, it is perhaps worth remembering just how this franchise went from being a big giant mess with poor leadership to… a big giant mess with poor leadership. It should come as no surprise to see James Dolan play a leading role in the story of the Knicks.
Dolan is taking the brunt of the blowback from recent struggles for the Knicks, which sunk to a new low recently with a bit of an ugly situation with former Knick Charles Oakley recently in the stands. How the Knicks handled the treatment of their former player was a direct reflection on just how poorly the Knicks have been run for years, including the entire run Dolan has been leaving his imprint on the franchise. Hindsight has a funny way of being 20/20, which is why it is weird to look back at when Dolan was hired to his current position with the Knicks and remember how he was heralded upon his hiring.
Here is what the New York Post said about Dolan’s rise within the franchise at the time he was named the new chairman of Madison Square Garden.
Until now, Dolan has been the silent and invisible hand that guided the Garden, giving Checketts the green light to commit hundreds of millions of dollars in Cablevision cash in hopes of turning the teams around.
Those piles of cash, of course, didn’t come close to bringing anything close to a championship to the city. The only thing [former chairman of MSG Dave Checketts] and the cash brought was turmoil, so Dolan did the only thing a responsible boss could do: he got rid of Checketts.
One analyst at Merrill Lynch said of Nolan “He is an incredibly bright guy.” He doesn’t get that kind of praise today.
One of Dolan’s first major moves was finding a new President of Basketball Operations for the Knicks. This is a hire that sink anyone if they get it wrong, and the hiring of Isaiah Thomas was made with a mix of skepticism and optimism depending whom you asked. Somehow, Dolan has managed to stay afloat years after the Thomas era.
“They probably won’t make the playoffs, but for the Knicks, for now, Isiah Thomas does represent a breath of fresh air, and hope, which is always good,” The Town Times in Connecticut said at the time. Dolan and the Knicks went with Thomas after missing out on a window to hire another candidate like Larry Brown, Larry Bird or Mike Dunleavy.
The early returns on Thomas in charge of the Knicks was not all bad, with a string of dominating victories helping to make the Knicks fun to watch for a brief period in time in 2003.
“I definitely think we’re playing different,” said Keith Van Horn at the time, after the Knicks won five of six games following the hiring of Thomas. Despite the flash in the pan, the calls for actually having Thomas take his role a step further by taking over as head coach began being heard a month later. The New York Post was leading the charge.
Thomas can best serve the Knicks today by supplying leadership from the bench, not the tunnel. They haven’t had that since Jeff Van Gundy left. “We still have a lot of changes to make,” Thomas said Saturday. He knows his chance of getting Rasheed Wallace is all but dead, so we hope he’s referring to the coaching issue.
Thomas would get a chance to be the coach, but until Thomas hired Larry Brown to be the head coach and fired him after a disaster of a 23-59 season that saw feuds brew between Brown and players, including Stephon Marbury, who Dolan and the Knicks invested an exorbitant amount in.
— Freezing Cold Takes (@OldTakesExposed) March 8, 2016
Under Dolan, the simplest solutions to fixing the Knicks has relied heavily on hiring big names that have a history in the league and hoping that fixes it all. Thomas, Brown and Marbury proved that may not be the best course of action. The Knicks made a bold move in acquiring Carmelo Anthony but have yet to capitalize on that even despite a fun run with Jeremy Lin. Now it is Kristaps Porzingis and offseason moves to bring Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah to the roster. Talk about the Knicks potentially being a dream team did not last long this summer.
The Knicks are 23-33, sitting 15.5 games out of the last playoff spot in the Eastern conference. It things do not turn around soon, Dolan could be the one that has to move out of the way to allow someone with a new plan to step in and turn the Knicks around for the first time in decades.