After Latest Outburst on Fan, It’s Clear: Owner James Dolan Is The Knicks’ Biggest Problem

Updated: March 16, 2019
James Dolan Knicks

New York City is certainly familiar with a dictator-like sports owner. George Steinbrenner ruled over baseball’s New York Yankees with an iron fist. However, Steinbrenner also delivered seven World Series titles to its fanbase. That type of winning will excuse a lot of erratic behavior.

For the New York Knicks, owner James Dolan has several public relations blunders to his credit but very little success on the court to go along with it.

Dolan took over operations of the Knicks in 1999, the last year the team went to the NBA Finals. But once Dolan assumed day-to-day operations, a sharp decline followed. Unsuccessful hires like Isiah Thomas and Phil Jackson have also plagued Dolan’s reign – two recognizable names who had no experience in an NBA front office. Rising superstar Kristaps Porzingis was recently traded to Dallas. The club has one playoff series win since the 2000-01 season.

And Dolan doesn’t like to hear about the lack of success that one of the NBA’s flagship franchises has endured during his stewardship. His Machiavellian ways included banning media outlets like the Daily News from covering the team when they didn’t provide positive coverage, and a feud with Knicks great Charles Oakley led to an arrest and a ban from Madison Square Garden (a facility the Dolan family also owns) for one of the franchise’s most popular players of all-time.

However, arguably the most embarrassing moment for Dolan has come this week.

On Saturday, Dolan had a fan detained by security – and later also banned from MSG – for having the audacity to yell out to Dolan to “sell the team” after yet another Knicks defeat. There was no profanity. The fan did not leave his seat to confront Dolan. To be clear, this occurred in midtown Manhattan, not in North Korea.

Dolan tried to defend himself on a series of radio shows this week, but the appearances did more to show that the fan who suggested Dolan give someone else a shot at running the Knicks was probably making a salient point.

When ESPN Radio New York host Michael Kay suggested that the Knicks are a public trust and that Dolan is just the temporary steward, Dolan corrected Kay by stating, “I own the team.”

He also mentioned that the Knicks would make around the same amount of money whether they were winning or losing. That’s not a statement that a fanbase starved for any type of success wants to hear.

This isn’t the look that you want to project when you’ve cleared enough salary cap space to go after two marquee free agents over the summer. Will someone like Kyrie Irving or Kevin Durant want to play for someone so thin-skinned that he can’t handle a flippant comment from a fan in a city known for passionate and demanding fans? (Name a New York sports star who didn’t get booed at one time or another in his career.)

Before his free agency in 2010, LeBron James had an infatuation with New York. He always noted how much playing in Madison Square Garden in the biggest media market in the world meant to him. But the Knicks weren’t much of a factor in his vaunted “Decision” when he took his talents to South Beach.

That’s the thing about free agency in the NBA. Due to the salary structure, teams can’t outbid the others like they can in the NFL or MLB. Intangibles come into play far more often when an NBA superstar mulls his future.

Time and time again (with Carmelo Anthony being the lone exception), big-time free agents are avoiding the Knicks, despite their vaunted history. If the Knicks come up relatively empty in this upcoming free agent class, you have to think that Dolan is having is serving as a repellant for the stars.

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