As part of a wide-ranging interview with New York City radio station WFAN Friday afternoon, New York Knicks owner James Dolan said he believes in the job team president Leon Rose is doing, and that he “fully expects” the Knicks to make the playoffs this season.
“Yes, absolutely,” Dolan said on WFAN’s “Carton and Roberts,” hosted by Craig Carton and Evan Roberts, when asked if he was happy with the job Rose is doing.
“Why did I bring Leon in? I’ve been doing this for like 20-something years and in my experience with the NBA, there’s things you can do as an owner. You can create an environment where everybody, you give them enough money to do their job, give them more money than they need to do their job. You can stay out of the way, which is usually the best course of action.
“But you do end up picking the one guy who’s going to make all the strategy, who’s going to execute for you. I picked Leon because I believe after you look at the NBA and the game that we play, that the team with the best talent wins. You want a guy who can get you the best talent. I believe that Leon Rose is still the best guy.”
When asked if there was a timetable Rose — a longtime player agent who was hired by Dolan to run the Knicks in March 2020 — was working under, Dolan said there was not. Instead, he said the goal moving forward was to show progress.
“Eventually, there’s a timetable,” Dolan said. “But, right now, what we’re looking for is progress. We want to build into a championship team. We fully expect to make the playoffs this year. That will definitely be a benchmark.
“Now, this is sports. If Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle both get hurt? [Making the playoffs is] probably going to be tough.”
After wins over the Cleveland Cavaliers and the NBA-leading Boston Celtics this week, New York has a 27-23 record and sits in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, a half-game behind the Miami Heat in sixth and four games up on the Washington Wizards and Chicago Bulls, who are tied for the 10th spot — the final play-in tournament position.
Speaking of the Cavaliers, the subject of Donovan Mitchell came up, as the Knicks spent months being linked to the All-Star guard this summer before the Utah Jazz sent him to Cleveland. When asked if the more “meddlesome” version of Dolan would have forced Rose to make a trade for Mitchell, Dolan responded, “I didn’t.”
When asked if it was fair to say prior versions of Dolan would have done so, he said, “Not in the last 10 years,” seemingly referring to his decision to push then-executive Donnie Walsh to consummate the trade for Carmelo Anthony back in 2011.
“My attitude has changed,” Dolan said. “Every new owner comes in thinking they’ve got the answer to how to make the team successful. Not to disparage my fellow owners, but there are franchises out there with owners over the last few years you can look at new owners who have come in and thrown a lot of money, etc, and are not doing as well as they thought.
“You really got to leave a lot of the strategy to the guys who have dedicated their lives and careers. … My deal with Leon and with [Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau], et cetera, is that I get to speak.
“Their deal is they don’t have to listen to me.”
Since Dolan assumed control of the Knicks in 1999, New York has had 14 different head coaches and seven different lead basketball executives.
Dolan also said he has no plans to sell either the Knicks or New York Rangers.
“I have no plans whatsoever to sell at this point,” Dolan said. “I’m not retiring anytime soon. It’s a family-controlled asset, so someone in the family will own it.”
Dolan, who rarely gives any media interviews, did his second in as many days after a morning show appearance on the local Fox television station Thursday morning. Both appearances were made in regard to the facial recognition technology that Madison Square Garden is using both there, where Dolan’s Knicks and New York Rangers play, and at other venues owned by the company, and that has been utilized to ban people from coming to games or concerts.
Dolan reiterated his position that the only people who are being impacted by this are the lawyers filing lawsuits against his company, and that once those lawsuits are complete, they will then be allowed to come to the games.
But when asked directly if fans can be — and have been — banned, he contradicted himself.
“OK. So, we use the … this is a long answer,” Dolan said, when asked if fans should have a concern about being banned from games. “I think the answer is basically no, except if you become confrontational.
“Confrontational with other fans, confrontational with the staff, confrontational with the ownership. You really have to be confrontational — not just say, ‘I don’t like you.’ Generally, it involves some form of profanity.”
This led to a hypothetical being asked: If a fan yells from the upper deck, will they get thrown out? Or does someone have to come down and yell profanity in Dolan’s direction?
“First, the guy up in the stands, I mean, we don’t know if we’re going to hear him,” Dolan said. “But, if we do, so what? But the guy who comes down, works his way down to the floor and as I’m leaving, starts confronting me … yeah, that guy is going to go. He’s there to pick a fight.”
In a similar vein, Dolan said social media posts would not cause someone to get banned from coming to games.
“No,” he said. “Even if you come down and get into my face and say, ‘Your team sucks! Do a better job!’ I’m going to say, ‘We will next game. Come again.'”
He once again contradicted himself later in the interview, again unequivocally stating fans shouldn’t be worried about being banned using facial recognition technology — “That’s not going to happen” — when it was followed up with a question about whether fans have been banned.
“Only the ones who have come down and gotten right into your face. They just step over the line. We certainly understand fans getting emotional. That’s a bit part of the appeal of the game. But the ones who get right up in your face and get confrontational, and that unfortunately has happened.”
Dolan also went after Sharif Kabir, the CEO of the New York State Liquor Authority, which is threatening to take away MSG’s liquor license over the facial recognition controversy. Dolan repeated Kabir’s office number on the air during the interview.
On Friday, New York State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal — the chairman of the State Senate’s Judiciary Committee — wrote a letter to both NBA commissioner Adam Silver and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman asking them to sanction Dolan over the use of facial recognition to turn away fans.
“I implore both of your organizations to use your power and discipline MSG and Mr. Dolan for these alarming abuses unless they immediately cease profiling fans with facial recognition technology for non-security purposes,” Hoylman-Sigal wrote.