James Dolan backs Knicks president Leon Rose

In a wide-ranging interview with New York radio station WFAN Friday afternoon, New York Knicks owner James Dolan said he believes in the work of team president Leon Rose 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 Rose’s work.

“Why did I bring Leon in? I’ve been doing this for about 20 years and from my experience in the NBA there are things you can do as an owner. You can create an environment where you give everyone enough money.” Give them more money than they need to do their jobs. You can avoid them, which is usually the best course of action.

“But in the end you choose the one guy who does all the strategy, who executes for you. I picked Leon because I think after you look at the NBA and the game we play, the team with the best talent wins. You want a man who can get you the best talent. I believe that Leon Rose is still the best man.

When asked if there was a schedule that Rose — a longtime player agent hired by Dolan to manage the Knicks in March 2020 — was working to, Dolan said there wasn’t. Instead, he said the goal is to show progress.

“Eventually there’s a schedule,” Dolan said. “But right now we are looking for progress. We want to build into a championship team. We expect to make the playoffs this year. That will definitely be a benchmark.

“Well, that’s sports. If Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle both get injured? [Making the playoffs is] it’s probably going to be tough.”

After victories over the Cleveland Cavaliers and NBA-leading Boston Celtics this week, New York has a 27-23 record and sits seventh in the Eastern Conference, a half game behind the Miami Heat in sixth and four games ahead Washington Wizards and Chicago Bulls, who share 10th place – the final play-in tournament position.

Speaking of Cavaliers, the topic of Donovan Mitchell came up as the Knicks linked with the All-Star guard for months this summer before the Utah Jazz sent him to Cleveland. When asked if the “more pushy” version of Dolan would have forced Rose to make a trade for Mitchell, Dolan replied, “I didn’t.”

When asked if it’s fair to say that previous versions of Dolan had done so, he said, “Not in the last 10 years,” apparently referring to his decision to press then-CEO Donnie Walsh to stop the trade for Carmelo Anthony to complete again in 2011.

“My attitude has changed,” Dolan said. “Every new owner comes in thinking they have the answer on how to make the team successful. Not to disparage my co-owners, but there are franchises that have owners in recent years, you can look at new owners that have come in, thrown a lot of money into it and etc, and they’re not doing as well as they thought they were.

“You really have 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 have my say.

“Your deal is you don’t have to listen to me.”

Since Dolan took control of the Knicks in 1999, New York has had 14 different head coaches and seven different senior basketball executives.

Dolan also said he has no plans to sell the Knicks or the New York Rangers.

“I have absolutely no plans to sell at this point,” Dolan said. “I’m not retiring anytime soon. It’s a family-controlled asset, so it will belong to someone in the family.”

Dolan, who rarely gives media interviews, gave his second in as many days Thursday morning after an appearance on local television station Fox’s morning show. Both appearances were in relation to the facial recognition technology that Madison Square Garden uses both where the Dolans Knicks and New York Rangers play and at other company locations, and which has been used to ban people from attending games or concerts.

Dolan reiterated his position that the only people affected are the attorneys filing lawsuits against his company, and that they will be allowed to come to the games after those lawsuits are resolved.

But when asked directly if fans can – and have – been banned, he contradicted himself.

“OK. So, we’re using the… that’s a long answer,” Dolan said when asked if fans should have concerns about being banned from games. “I think the answer is basically no, except when you get confrontational.

“Confrontational with other fans, confrontational with the staff, confrontational with the owner. You have to be really confrontational – not just say, ‘I don’t like you.’ It generally involves some form of obscenity.”

This led to a hypothetical question: if a fan yells from the top deck, will they get kicked out? Or does someone have to come down and shout foul language at Dolan?

“First the guy 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 coming down works his way down to the ground and as I leave he starts confronting me…yes this guy is going to leave. He’s there to pick a fight.”

Similarly, Dolan said social media posts would not result in anyone being banned from coming to games.

“No,” he said. “Even if you come down and look me in the face and say, ‘Your team sucks! Do a better job!’ I’ll say, ‘We’ll play next game. Come back.'”

He contradicted himself again later in the interview, again stating in no uncertain terms that fans shouldn’t worry about being banned with facial recognition technology — “It’s not going to happen” — when this was followed by a question about whether fans have been banned.

“Only the ones that came down and kicked you straight in the face. You just step over the line. We certainly understand that fans get emotional. That’s a bit part of the appeal of the game. But the ones that go straight in your face and get confrontational, and unfortunately that’s what happened.”

Dolan also took action against Sharif Kabir, the CEO of the New York State Liquor Authority, which is threatening to revoke MSG’s liquor license over the facial recognition controversy. Dolan repeated Kabir’s office number during the interview.

On Friday, New York State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal — the chairman of the State Senate Judiciary Committee — wrote a letter to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman urging them to blame Dolan for using facial recognition sanction distant fans.

“I beseech both of your organizations to relieve MSG and Mr. Dolan of your power and discipline for these alarming abuses unless they stop immediately profiling fans with facial recognition technology for non-security purposes,” Hoylman-Sigal wrote.

https://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/35540225/james-dolan-backs-knicks-president-leon-rose-best-guy-job James Dolan backs Knicks president Leon Rose

Emma Bowman

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