New York City is a great place that would be even greater if James Dolan sold the Knicks and Rangers, gave a boring farewell press conference and then went away.
The team’s long-loathed owner is back in the headlines again for all the wrong reasons. Dolan is now in a battle with the New York State Liquor Authority, and a host of other politicians and groups, over MSG Corporation’s use of facial-recognition technology to enforce a ban of attorneys from its properties.
Since staying quiet and letting the process play out makes too much sense, Dolan did things his way. He sat down with Good Day New York’s Rosanna Scotto and threw what amounted to a 17-minute tantrum. As is typical for him, Dolan discussed everything except basketball — save a surprise Mitchell Robinson injury update — and instead griped about his ongoing feud with the SLA. He even doubled down on using the software and insisted he was the victim.
“Our values are important to us, too. The Garden has to defend itself,” he said. “People say you’re too sensitive, you shouldn’t defend yourself, it’s something out of ‘The Godfather.’ It’s not personal, it’s strictly business.”
Dolan also spoke of a plan to “shut down all the liquor and alcohol in the building” for a future game. He even added a custom flyer of SLA chair Sharif Kabir, complete with office email and phone number, and threw in some what-aboutism for how the attorney general and SLA should focus on other matters like bail reform.
“They’re doing this for publicity, so we’re gonna give them some publicity,” Dolan said. “Tell him to stick to his knitting and to what he’s supposed to be doing and stop grandstanding and trying to get press.”
What a joke.
Let’s just nip this in the bud right now. Facial-recognition aside, alcohol at MSG isn’t going anywhere. Even if Dolan goes through with a booze-free game, the potential legal backlash will make it a one-time stunt.
Yet, this is who owns your beloved Knicks and Rangers, New Yorkers. A man who cares more about bad publicity than bad basketball. Look at everything that’s gone wrong for the Knicks over the past 20-odd years. It almost always comes back to the same answer: Dolan. The Athletic even produced a whole podcast summarizing his checkered ownership.
What has the man done right save for maybe hiring Tom Thibodeau? No, seriously. What has Dolan done to make the Knicks anything but the NBA’s signature punchline? A few good hires here and there doesn’t negate the soap opera.
Isiah Thomas’ awful trades and drafts set the team back years and his sexual harassment lawsuit is still a black eye on the organization. Who can forget Dolan strongarming himself into trade negotiations for Carmelo Anthony and alienating veteran executive Donnie Walsh mid-rebuild? How did hiring longtime Knicks executive and Dolan lapdog Steve Mills work out? Not well, and two times over.
Oh, and remember when MSG shareholders sued him for spending too much time with his band? And “JD and the Straight Shot” would be lucky to get a permit to perform inside the subway without Dolan’s billions.
Let Dolan prattle on and on about how much he cares about the Knicks and wants them to be championship contenders. Everyone knows who he is. Nobody believes him.
Meanwhile, New York is still a great basketball town with fans who are pining for the Knicks to be great again. The city is a global, cultural phenomenon hosting a team that plays a global, culturally phenomenal sport. The Knicks should be leading the way in basketball excellence. Instead, Dolan’s turned them into the NBA’s Buffalo Bills, only without the aw-shucks charisma.
The city, its fans and the Knicks deserve better than this man. He reportedly obsesses over a “code system” to target critics he doesn’t like, sometimes confronting hecklers and banning them for life. What if he channeled that energy into making sure team president Leon Rose does more than just a bi-annual appearance on the company-owned TV network?
The saddest part of all is that if he just shut his mouth and faded to the background without giving up the team? Dolan could probably be a good owner. Rose hasn’t been the worst despite his lack of media availability and might even come out of his cave more if Dolan were less in the picture.
None of this is to say that the Knicks will never win a championship so long as Dolan is around. Teams have won it all with meddling and bothersome owners before. Just ask Jerry Jones and George Steinbrenner.
Yet with how far the Knicks have fallen under Dolan’s watch? It’s hard to believe they’ll ever rise like the phoenix from the ashes and be an NBA powerhouse with him in charge. He should sell the team and collect the big paycheck.