The Knicks don't want to let their new GM make the basketball decisions

The front-office job left open by Phil Jackson's firing is still vacant. (AP)
The front-office job left open by Phil Jackson’s firing is still vacant. (AP)

Former Cleveland Cavaliers general manager David Griffin will not replace Phil Jackson in the New York Knicks’ front office, because a franchise that has gotten out of the first round of the playoffs once this decade reportedly would not allow its head of basketball operations to make its basketball decisions.

It is an NBA sticking point that seemingly could only happen in New York.

According to, Griffin walked away from discussions when the Knicks refused to give him and his own staff complete control, preferring instead to keep Steve Mills at the helm of a front office that has made zero playoff appearances since he assumed executive vice president and GM duties in 2013.

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Additionally, Griffin wanted Allan Houston out as assistant GM, per the New York Daily News. The two-time All-Star has long been considered the organization’s future GM in training, despite the Knicks owning a record 102 games below .500 since he joined the front office as a special assistant in 2008.

Talks with Griffin increased over the weekend, but broke down when neither Griffin nor Mills would cede control of basketball decisions to the other during a dinner meeting, per the New York Post.

Meanwhile, the Knicks signed restricted free agent Tim Hardaway Jr. to an exorbitant four-year, $71 million contract that the Atlanta Hawks refused to match, and the team is reportedly shopping 10-time All-Star Carmelo Anthony — decisions that will impact the franchise for the foreseeable future.

All of which suggests Knicks owner James Dolan is completely comfortable with Mills running point, which is strange, since they’ve never made the playoffs in the 10 years he’s worked for them (2003-09 and 2013-17). The only organization that could botch a GM search this bad, it seems, is the Knicks, and that’s a shame, because they play in the NBA’s largest media market, and their fans deserve better.

So, what’s next for the Knicks? They could not land a GM who constructed a team that won a title as recently as 2016 and reached the NBA Finals in all three of his seasons at the helm, because they would rather keep the status quo of a franchise that has become the laughingstock of the NBA.

And they are reportedly unwilling to compensate teams with GMs of interest — namely the Toronto Raptors’ Masai Ujiri and the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Sam Presti — because they’ve given away first-round draft picks every other year since 2009. Because they’ve been run aground by GM after GM.

The last three first-round picks they’ve actually made tell quite the story. Iman Shumpert was traded along with J.R. Smith to Griffin’s Cavaliers in 2014 for essentially nothing three years after being drafted 17th in 2011. Hardaway Jr. was traded two years after being taken 24th in 2013, only to be signed to his $71 million offer sheet last week. And 2015 fourth overall pick Kristaps Porzingis was being shopped on draft night, before even the Knicks decided that was insane enough to fire Jackson.

So, who can the Knicks possibly acquire to clean up this mess? Besides Mills, of course, who according to multiple reports is angling to replace Jackson himself — and seems to be succeeding in that regard.

If they are unwilling to cede complete control to Griffin, it is unlikely they would make such accommodations for another available candidate, since few can match the former Cavaliers GM’s credentials — except for ex-Detroit Pistons GM Joe Dumars, who built the 2004 championship team and recently interviewed with the Hawks, but he wouldn’t exactly be a forward-thinking option.

Others who have come up in recent GM searches are former Pistons All-Star Chauncey Billups, who interviewed with the Hawks and Cavaliers, fellow NBA analyst Brent Barry, Houston Rockets vice president Gersson Rosas, former Milwaukee Bucks assistant GM Justin Zanik, recently fired Hawks GM Wes Wilcox, Indiana Pacers vice president Peter Dinwiddie, Pistons assistant GM Pat Garrity, Memphis Grizzlies vice president Ed Stefanski and Minnesota Timberwolves assistant GM Noah Croom.

If the Knicks knew what they were doing, they would try to lure Celtics assistant GM Mike Zarren away from Boston, but he’s too smart to take that job without full control, and the Knicks don’t know what they’re doing. Which is why they will probably just leave Mills in charge and promote from within a franchise that once defended its GM while paying out a sexual harassment settlement on his behalf.

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Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Ball Don’t Lie and Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!