The contemporary New York Knicks have a well deserved reputation as a bit of a mess. Despite recent successes, the James Dolan era has been typified by a lack of direction, poorly executed plans, and an apparent desire to appeal to the tabloids above the fan base. It's sometimes difficult to understand exactly what the franchise's long-term plan is, or if they even desire to have one.
So, naturally, the Knicks couldn't make it to training camp without a surprising change to their front office. As announced on Thursday, the team has replaced president and general manager Glen Grunwald with Steve Mills, who helped oversee team operations over one of the worst periods in franchise history. From Nate Taylor for The New York Times:
Steve Mills, who spent a decade as one of the highest-ranking executives at Madison Square Garden before departing in June 2009, will replace Glen Grunwald, who spent the last three seasons helping to transform the Knicks into a competitive team.
The Knicks said Grunwald would remain with the team as an adviser, but it was unclear how much he would be involved in future decisions.
Mills was president of Madison Square Garden from 2003 to 2008, a period in which the Knicks were in disarray on and off the court. It was Mills who recommended that Isiah Thomas be hired as the Knicks’ president in December 2003.
The move came to haunt Mills when another team executive, Anucha Browne Sanders, sued Thomas and the Garden in January 2006 for sexual harassment. Browne Sanders, who had been hired by Mills, was awarded $11.6 million in punitive damages by a jury in October 2007. (The case was later settled for $11.5 million.)
The decision is superficially peculiar. The years in which Mills oversaw MSG were fairly despicable ones for the Knicks, with Thomas guiding the team to horrendous seasons on the court and ignominy off it. Any decision that reminds people of that era would seem to be a bad one for the Knicks, an organization just now returning to prominence in the Eastern Conference. Grunwald appeared to be doing a fairly good job assembling a coherent and effective roster, but it's unclear how political concerns factor into the situation.
Public relations aren't all that matter, of course, and for all we know Mills has learned much and could become one of the best executives in the NBA. But this announcement, particularly in such close proximity to the season, smacks of a team flying by the seat of its pants. As ever, the Dolan Knicks appear unconcerned with reassuring their fans that everything will be okay.
Time will tell if this decision was the right one. For now, though, the Knicks are as Knicks-ian as ever.