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Knicks Owner James Dolan Is the Einstein of Incompetence

2.25_LS0109_Dolan
02/28/14
In the Magazine
James Dolan, center, the chairman of Madison Square Garden, watches during the first half of the NBA basketball game between the Golden State Warriors and the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden in New York, Nov. 20, 2007. Justin Lane/EPA

Earlier this week John Giamella, a 19-year-old man from Staten Island, was arrested after tweeting a death threat directed at New York Knicks owner James Dolan. Like you, I found this news astonishing: Only one person has sent Jim Dolan a death threat this season?

James Dolan is the Einstein of incompetence. The Nureyev of nepotism. He's Fredo Corleone, without the charisma. New York City is flush with homeless people, none of whom could possibly mismanage the Knickerbockers - or present a more slovenly physical appearance, for that matter - any worse than the 58-year-old Dolan. There is true genius at work here. Seriously.

The scion of a true media visionary - Dolan's father, Charles, founded HBO, among other entrepreneurial feats - Jim Dolan's stewardship of the Knicks since 1999 has been a reflection of himself: spoiled, careless, compulsive, fiscally imprudent and devoid of inspiration. His reign provides compelling evidence that not only may the apple fall far from the tree, it may have never even been attached to the tree. If it is even an apple.

You don't have the time to read, nor I the constitution to enumerate, all of the misdeeds of the Dolan era, but here are a few:

Contracts: Dolan gave Allan Houston, a good-not-great shooting guard, a six-year, $100 million contract when Houston was 30. Houston wound up not playing his final two seasons, during which time he earned $39.5 million. Eddy Curry: six years, $60 million. Jerome James: five years, $30 million. He signed Larry Brown to the most lucrative coaching contract in NBA history, $50 million for five years, then fired him in 2006, after one season. After a buyout settlement was reached, Brown wound up earning $28 million for one 23-59 season. Even former NBA commissioner David Stern, a New Yorker and a man renowned for his courtly demeanor, said that the Knicks were "not a model of intelligent management."

First-Round Draft Picks: Frederic Weis? The seven-foot-two Frenchman was a faux pas who never played in the NBA. Michael Sweetney and Renaldo Balkman? Started a combined 30 games in four seasons. The few legitimate starters or all-stars the team selected - Nene, Channing Frye, David Lee and Danilo Gallinari - were traded long before their NBA talent ripened. All of them are now solid starters, and all but Gallinari on playoff-bound teams.

Jeremy Lin: In the winter of 2012, by pure dumb luck, the Harvard alum, a Chinese-American, fell into the Knicks' lap and electrified not only New York but the entire sports universe. He led the Knicks to a 6-0 record in his first six NBA starts, all without their franchise player, Carmelo Anthony, and introduced a new term in the sports vernacular: Linsanity. The city was in love with him.

At season's end Lin, who had begun the year in the NBA's Developmental League (the D-League), commanded a free-agent price that, while above market value, was certainly no more egregious than some of the other deals Dolan had signed off on. Dolan let him walk. Smart move, too, because the only place in the world where you will find more Chinese outside of China is... New York City.

As far as Dolan's appearance, in a city replete with CEOs and self-made millionaires, how one looks or carries himself is irrelevant - as long as there is a whiff of brilliance, a hint of - even just a gleam of - leadership. We loved Tony Soprano, after all. And Bill Parcells.

Dolan has neither of those traits. Like the team that he has put together, the one that this season has the league's second-highest payroll and 23rd-best record, his work ethic is desultory. His players are abrasive, casting baleful glares at the referees or one another whenever they lose by 50, as they did to the Dallas Mavericks two years ago, or by 41, as they did to the Boston Celtics earlier this season. Or by 29 to the Oklahoma City Thunder on December 25, the worst Christmas Day loss in NBA history.

All of those defeats, by the way, came at Madison Square Garden, the Knicks' home, where the average price of a ticket is $320, the most expensive in the league. Once known as "The World's Most Famous Arena", it is now, by virtue of its tenants, the world's most heinous arena.

If you watch the Knicks on television - for many in the tristate area, the only affordable way to see them play - you are treated to the sesquipedalian symphony that is Walt "Clyde" Frazier. Clyde, who played point guard and was the leading scorer on the last Knicks team to win an NBA championships, a scant 41 years ago, is colorful, both sartorially and as a color analyst. He adores polysyllabic verbiage, and lately I've played a game with myself while watching: Will Frazier use "lethargic" or "discombobulated" first when describing the Knicks' play?

Oh, it is awful. Last Friday night in Orlando, versus a Magic team with the league's third-worst record, the Knicks blew a 14-point second-half lead. And then, in overtime, center Tyson Chandler's go-ahead dunk in the final minute caromed off his head and bounced back out of the cylinder. No basket. The Knicks lost.

This was the first of a three losses in four nights stretch for the Knicks, one that would culminate with starting guard Raymond Felton being arrested for unlawful possession of a weapon. This after his wife, a Fordham law student, turned in Felton's semiautomatic handgun to police after she became concerned with how he brandished it at home. The irony here, of course, is that the Knicks have been in search of a reliable shooting guard all season.

As you may know, Dolan fronts a country blues band by the name of "JD & The Straight Shot." A few years ago the band was playing a music festival, Dolan singing lead, when a few Knick fans in the audience suggested shouting this plea: "Quit your day job!"

Yes, Jim, quit your day job. Or hire John Giamella, the Mad Tweeter from Staten Island, as your new director of basketball operations.

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