I don’t want to jinx this. First, a moment of silent reflection. On the losses and the pain. The madness and the Linsanity. The ups and the downs and the twists and turns of the James Dolan Era. Now. Let us pray.
— ☕netw3rk (@netw3rk) June 29, 2018
OK. James Dolan, the chairman of the Madison Square Garden Company, appears to be making preparations to sell the New York Knicks. He has overseen the Knicks, to varying degrees of ineptitude, since 1999, when his father, Charles F. Dolan, the founder of Cablevision and HBO, gave him the team and various other properties, including the New York Rangers, in the same way an overworked parent might give a fussy child a fidget spinner.
During the Dolan Era, the Knicks have weathered various controversies, many of the self-own variety, while amassing six playoff appearances in 19 seasons, four of those being first-round exits. A short list of the litany of fuck-ups includes: the Gold Club case; the time Charlie Ward, Kurt Thomas, and Allan Houston (currently a member of the Knicks’ front office) made anti-Semitic comments to a Jewish New York Times reporter; the time Larry Brown came to the team to cash massive checks and show everyone his ass; the time Dolan fired Brown and refused to pay him; the time Brown sued and the Knicks were ordered to pay him $18.5 million; the time Dolan’s friend and then-Knicks president Isiah Thomas (currently on-air talent for Inside the NBA and NBATV) was found by a jury of his peers to have sexually harassed an employee, costing the Garden and Dolan $11.6 million; the time Stephon Marbury’s dad died at the Garden, during a game, and no one told him; the time team legend Charles Oakley was wrestled from his seat and forced out of the arena; the time Dolan basically strong-armed the Rockettes into dancing at Donald Trump’s inauguration; the time—actually I’ve been doing this for almost 20 years and I’m tired. You get the picture.
This appears to be the long-awaited moment—and, again, I don’t want to jinx it—that Knicks fans have been hoping and praying for. The moment when the light at the end of the endless vast darkness becomes a beacon of hope, and not the Eye of Sauron.
On Thursday, Dolan announced that he was exploring spinning off Madison Square Garden’s sports properties from its other, mostly live-event-based holdings (including Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall, the Beacon Theater, the Forum, the Chicago Theater, and the Wang Theater) into a separate, independently traded company. “We believe this proposed transaction would provide each company with enhanced strategic flexibility, its own defined business focus, and clear investment characteristics,” Dolan said. While he would remain in control of both companies, and thus the Knicks, the move is seen as a necessary first step to (lights candles, makes sign of the cross, drops to knees in front of a statue of Clyde Frazier holding an infant Kristaps Porzingis and allows the Holy Spirit to unfurl and reveal itself and penetrate my ossified heart, where embers of hope glow against all odds in fragile secret seclusion) selling the team, should he so choose. So help me god.
Should that happen, should that day come, it’s not an exaggeration to say there would be actual celebrations in the streets. It will be like the Allies marching into Paris. Despite his bumbling stewardship of the Knicks, Dolan, a rumpled and overbearing character whose one notable talent is that his father was wealthy, has come into his own in recent years. Which makes sense; we are, after all, living through the peak “failson” era.
Right around the time of his decision to hire Phil Jackson as president of the Knicks in 2015, Dolan threw his energies into music and live events. He sold Cablevision for $10 billion, just as the cord-cutting headwinds were beginning to stir, and he poured that cash into his live-entertainment business. He took his ridiculous vanity blues band on the road, playing major arenas and opening for Don Henley and the Eagles, all because he’s a very talented musician and not the overseer of several iconic live venues, and a business partner of Irving Azoff, the longtime manager of Don Henley and, oh yeah, the Eagles. Dolan and Azoff recently collaborated on MSG Sphere, a series of cutting-edge music venues currently planned for Las Vegas and London.
Dolan has been widely mocked for truly awful musical stylings that he inflicts on unwitting audiences who just want to hear “Hotel California” and “Take It Easy.” The irony being this hobby might be the key that frees Knicks fans from him for good.
Knicks fans, take some time to reflect on this hopeful moment. General manager Scott Perry is new to the job, but his short track record with the Kings was promising, and he’s at least saying the right things. New coach David Fizdale promises to instill the hard-nosed lessons learned from his years winning titles with the Miami Heat. We have Kristaps Porzingis, a budding star, mending from injury; a young guard in Frank Ntilikina who is already an elite defensive presence; and the promising rookie Kevin Knox. This is a moment to let hope take root and—
Madison Square Garden Company releases statement: “There are no plans to sell the Knicks or the Rangers.”— Stefan Bondy (@SBondyNYDN) June 29, 2018