As the Knicks Wrap Up Worst-Ever Season, a Look at Owner James Dolan’s Legacy

Few sports team owners have caused as much damage to an organization as James Dolan, owner of the New York Knicks. Read one writer’s take on how it is time for the Knicks to move on.

Under the leadership of owner James Dolan, the Knicks have consistently made poor decisions in the offseason and missed the playoffs for the sixth straight season. (via flickr)

James Dolan’s tenure as owner of the New York Knicks has been mired in controversy and filled with shocking and often ridiculous incidents, leaving many fans, including myself, tired and desperate for change. Dolan took the reins of the organization following the 1998-1999 lockout-shortened season when the Knicks battled injury and tension to make an unlikely run to the NBA finals. Hopes were high, and the future was looking bright in New York City.

Flash forward to today. The Knicks are about to wrap up the worst season in their 73-year history, with a league-worst 16-64 record and have now missed the playoffs for the sixth straight season, just one shy of a franchise record. The last time the Knicks won a championship was in 1973. Here’s a look at Dolan — and the Knicks — over the years.

Lack of Organization

Since the beginning of his time with the Knicks, Dolan has cycled through coaches like a high school girl trying on prom dresses. Eleven coaches have come and gone under Dolan’s watch, from Jeff Van Gundy to Lenny Wilkens to Derek Fisher. Almost every coaching decision made by Dolan did not last long — and ultimately backfired on the team. Not to mention how Dolan allowed Phil Jackson’s ineptitude to corrupt the organization for three long years.

Money, Money and More Money

Everything in New York is more expensive, and it seems Dolan took that idea to a whole new level. Amar’e Stoudemire, Joakim Noah, Allan Houston, Carmelo Anthony, Tim Hardaway Jr. — the list goes on. And Dolan’s shopping spree wasn’t just limited to players — executives got in on the action as well. Former Knicks player Isiah Thomas was hired as President of Basketball Operations in 2003 and somehow managed to double the NBA’s salary cap. And during his stint as team president, Phil Jackson was paid $12 million annually.

Did He Really Do That?

Dolan has proven himself to be a volatile figure, especially in recent years. Fans have gotten used to seeing the Knicks in the headlines for all the wrong reasons, often due to Dolan’s inexcusable actions.

After team Senior Vice President of Marketing Anucha Browne Sanders filed a sexual harassment suit against Thomas in 2006 following her firing from the Knicks organization, Dolan stood by his friend and even kept Thomas on as President of Basketball Operations. Even when a jury determined that Thomas improperly fired Sanders for speaking up about the sexual advances and awarded her $11.6 million in damages, Dolan didn’t act. Thomas was eventually fired two years after the suit but later returned to the organization in 2015 as president of the New York Liberty, the WNBA team owned by Dolan at the time.

In 2017, there was the ejection of Knicks legend, Charles Oakley, from the very stadium he helped to make legendary. And then last month, Dolan banned a fan from Madison Square Garden  for yelling “Sell the team!” I mean, can you blame the poor fan?

What’s Next

Unfortunately, the future looks rather uncertain for the Knicks. Best case scenario, the team has the chance to draft one of the most exciting college prospects ever in Zion Williamson and snag Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in free agency. Worst case, the Knicks slip to the fifth pick in the draft lottery and fail to attract any superstars this summer. Knowing the Knicks’ unfortunate history and string of bad luck, many fans aren’t holding their breath waiting for the former to happen.

And even if the Knicks manage to pull off the impossible, it won’t matter if Dolan is still at the head. Unfortunately, he remains unlikely to sell the team. But somehow, some way, if New York is to make progress and build itself into a successful program, moving on from Dolan’s ownership is a must.

Email Jake Lee at [email protected]

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