James Dolan expects a championship for the New York Knicks this season

Eric Freeman
October 30, 2013

NBA players have a habit of predicting big things for themselves and their teams. While many of these claims can seem totally ridiculous (and are, in a logical sense), they exist primarily because succeeding at this level of competition requires immense confidence. The argument is somewhat circular, but not incorrect: for an athlete to accomplish something great, he must believe himself capable of doing so.

I suppose owners are in a form of competition, as well, although their jobs are not quite so dependent on psyching themselves up to perform at a high level. Typically, they sign checks, create a positive work environment, and make sure the people in charge of making basketball decisions. If an owner does his job really well, then the basketball world usually won't pay him much attention until the end of the season, when he has a chance to hold the Larry O'Brien Trophy.

New York Knicks owner James Dolan is not this kind of owner. So, naturally, he has said that he expects his franchise to win a title this June. From Ian Begley for ESPNNewYork.com:

In a recent meeting with the coaching staff and some team executives, Dolan said he believes the Knicks have enough talent to win a title and that he expects them to do so this season, league sources with knowledge of the owner's message during the meeting confirmed.

"He told them he believes they have enough talent to win it all," one source said, "and he expects it to happen this year."

The Knicks won 54 games last season, finished in second place in the Eastern Conference and won a playoff series for the first time in 13 years. [...]

[M]any NBA pundits predict that the Knicks will finish no higher than fifth in the East. That's why, according to sources, Dolan's expectations left some staffers in the meeting with an uneasy feeling.

"A few people were a bit surprised, taken aback. But he's the owner. He has a right to expect it," one source said.

The tone of Dolan's statements would seem to matter, because that difference could determine if were issuing a demand or just standard encouragement. Nevertheless, anything he says takes on extra weight simply because he has ultimate hiring and firing power over every employee in the organization. If the owner says he expects something, it's worth taking him seriously.

Of course, that doesn't mean his expectation makes any sense at all. As Begley notes, the vast majority of analysts do not see the Knicks as a title contender. Outside of that, though, they're also a team of veterans — in large part because Dolan has seemingly made a point of not keeping or pursuing young talent — with a firm desire to win a title. Chances are they don't need any extra motivation. It's as if Dolan made these comments simply because it's what an owner is supposed to do, at least according to some basic narrative of leaders inspiring their underlings.

Except the problem here is that Dolan has never been this sort of owner. To the contrary, he meddles in his team's affairs with startling regularity, molding the roster according to seemingly arbitrary factors like fame and the ability to win the news cycle. It's odd for him to make these expectations known because he has such a big role in the construction of the team. Perhaps Dolan needs to demand more of himself, as well.

On the other hand, it could have been much worse. He could have performed a song.

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Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at efreeman_ysports@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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