James Dolan Phil Jackson
Mandatory Credit: William Perlman/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports

James Dolan deserves much of the blame for the New York Knicks’ lack of success, but this time around he won’t deserve any blame.

It’s not happening. James Dolan is not selling the team. A change of ownership is just not in the cards for the New York Knicks. There’s no easy way to say this, but it’s time to evict Dolan from that beachfront real estate in your head because if this ship sinks again, he’s not the one to blame.

Of course, for anyone who’s followed the Knicks during the 2000s, that sounds like an impossible task. All through the lean years, the one constant has always been Dolan. Through the failed experiment with Larry Brown, the tumultuous tenure of Isiah Thomas, the shortsighted trade for Carmelo Anthony, the disappointment of the Phil Jackson era, and a public feud with an all-time Knicks great, Dolan deserves a lion’s share of the blame.

So where does that leave the fate of the organization? Surely, an owner with such a bad track record has no hope to change his ways. Maybe not, but it’s worth it — for every Knicks fan’s own sanity — to at least give it a shot.

There’s hope that Dolan may be a changed man. In fact, look no further than the New York Rangers to see what’s possible. Dolan stays out of the day-to-day hockey operations, but he’s still willing to spend money when he needs to. The Rangers have hit a rough patch of late, but they’ve found success for much of the last two decades.


And while the problems for the Knicks have never been about spending money (see Allan Houston, Jerome James, Carmelo Anthony, Joakim Noah, etc.), the problems mostly stem from an owner who dips his hand into the day-to-day functions when he shouldn’t.

But when was the last time Dolan meddled in the day-to-day affairs? At least publicly, it was when he fired Phil Jackson and began looking for new leadership at the helm. And let’s not get it twisted, Jackson’s firing was a move the majority of the fan base was clamoring for. That was not seen as meddling.

New York Knicks

But perhaps our kazoo-playing friend has finally turned the corner. One of Phil Jackson’s lasting legacies on the franchise may be that he convinced Dolan it was in his own best interest to stay out of the day-to-day operations. Unfortunately, Jackson wasn’t the guy to bring the Knicks back to prominence, but perhaps he was the guy who showed Dolan how best to do that.

Consequently, Dolan remains a shadowy figure lurking in the background to some fans. But he’s more of a straw man than anything else at this point. He’s the easy out when things are going bad. He certainly deserves the blame for much of the Knicks’ failure over the years. But this time it’s impossible to put the onus on him.

It’s clear that David Fizdale, Scott Perry, and Steve Mills are in complete control. They’re the captains of this ship and if it sinks, they go down with it. There’s no blaming Dolan this time around.

It’s nearly impossible to listen to Fizdale speak about the future and not get excited. It’s hard to argue with any of the moves made by Scott Perry since coming on. But if everything blows up in the face of the new regime, it’s not Dolan’s fault. He’s hands-off at this point and allowing the basketball people handle the day-to-day operations.

Perhaps this is a case of naivety or even unwarranted optimism, but this time around just feels different. There’s no other way to describe it. The new brain trust exudes positivity and it appears that Dolan is slowly fading into the background to give them the freedom to work.

If this organization experiences a dramatic turnaround, Fizdale, Perry, and Mills will get all the credit. But if Knicks fans are treated to more heartbreak, Dolan doesn’t deserve the ire of the fan base this time around.

New York Knicks

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