By John Schmeelk
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The Knicks finished the final renovation of Madison Square Garden this summer, but they forgot to install a new sign on the marquee that would have been appropriate for the Knicks this season — and most seasons since Jeff Van Gundy walked out the door back in 2001.
It’s something all Knicks fans foolish enough to pay for tickets have the right to know before they walk into Madison Square Garden.
“Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”
It was the sign that Virgil saw at the entrance to Hell in Dante’s “Inferno,” and it is quite apt for everyone to know what’s in store for them when they associate themselves with the New York Knicks. It isn’t just fans, either. Players, coaches and executives who consider coming to the Knicks should heed that warning as well. The Knicks take very well-accomplished people and ruin and discard them while embracing those who lead them to disaster.
Despite being here for one of the darkest eras in franchise history, Steve Mills was brought back to run the basketball side of the franchise with no experience. He replaced an accomplished personnel guy in Glen Grunwald, who replaced one of the most well-respected front-office people in the NBA: Donnie Walsh. James Dolan actually believes Mills is a better man to run this organization than Walsh.
Look at their history and accomplishments. There is absolutely no evidence that suggests that is true. What’s worse is that Dolan seems to have put more of his trust in Creative Arts Agency, whose ultimate loyalty is to its players, not the Knicks. For some reason, he thinks this is a good idea. He is being used and doesn’t even realize it.
For the precious years that Walsh was here, he made the Knicks look like a real NBA organization. Since he was run out of the building by the incompetent man behind the curtain — Dolan — the organization has backslid to where it was before Walsh cleaned up the mess caused by Dolan, Scott Layden and Isiah Thomas.
This year, despite the Knicks’ struggles and a quiet trade deadline, Mills hasn’t said a word. This isn’t about the media. Knicks fans, who pay the highest prices in the NBA to see an awful product, deserve to hear from the person who is leading the Knicks. They deserve to know what the plan is to bring this team back to respectability. Knicks fans deserve to know what the team will do to keep Carmelo Anthony. Right now, Knicks fans know nothing. It’s the way the Garden wants it. That’s how the organization treats the customers who line their pockets with gold: with complete disregard.
Just look at the quality of people that Dolan has run out of town. We already touched on the front-office personnel, but how about the coaches? Van Gundy couldn’t get away faster once Dolan started running things. He saw what was coming. Remember, Dolan once called his worst season as Knicks owner the year that the Knicks went to the NBA Finals in 1999 due to the infighting within the organization.
It shows what Dolan’s priorities are. His assistant coaches, Tom Thibodeau and Steve Clifford — who are now excellent head coaches — were of no interest to the Knicks’ front office. Larry Brown, a Hall of Famer, pulled the parachute after a year. Lenny Wilkens, a Hall of Famer, didn’t last 82 games. This is a pattern. The Knicks are repellent to competent NBA coaches and GMs. How can they possibly win when that is the case?
One underrated mistake the Knicks made came in the offseason of 2012, when they decided to make Mike Woodson the full-time head coach after he took over for Mike D’Antoni during the season. Sure, the team played well under him for a couple of months, but he was never going to be the long-term answer.
Any examination of his time in Atlanta would have shown an average coach who was not innovative and didn’t get the most out of his talent. Despite his reputation, the Hawks were never anything better than an average defensive team. There were better coaches available, but the Knicks committed to Woodson, but only after he fired his former agent and hired the CAA to represent him. He was the Knicks’ man, not because he was one of the best coaches in the NBA but because he could be controlled by the Knicks’ hierarchy. He would do what Dolan told him. That, more than anything else, is the criteria for the Knicks’ front office when they decide who to hire.
The entire environment around the Knicks is toxic, and it gets down to the players too. For all of Stephon Marbury’s flaws before he got to the Knicks, he fell off a cliff after just a few years in New York. He feuded with his coach, was embarrassed in a sexual-harassment trial and ultimately decided he was better off playing in China than in America.
And for any of you who watched some of his YouTube videos, Marbury partially lost his mind. He’s not innocent in the scenario by any means, but another organization would have handled him better.
Kurt Thomas didn’t want to come back to the Knicks after last season. This year they are jettisoning two guys who were rotation players on championship teams, Beno Udrih and Ron Artest. They committed to a guy like J.R. Smith long-term, and paid his brother just for the hell of it. The Knicks have even managed to turn Tyson Chandler, a Defensive Player of the Year winner and one of the best teammates in the NBA, into someone who is now criticized for his lack of defense and who takes shots at his head coach.
Don’t think Carmelo Anthony hasn’t seen this. Don’t think NBA players don’t talk to one another and see this too. What good is cap space if the right type of player doesn’t want to play for your organization?
With CAA pulling Mills’ marionette strings, will the Knicks only be able to attract clients from that agency? The Knicks are toxic. They destroy everything they touch. Even momentary glimpses of success — like last year — are ultimately just teases to make future misery feel even worse. It doesn’t get any worse than this.
Dante was right and every Knicks fan should feel like Virgil right now. That’s what this organization does to its fans. Maybe not during the 2015-2016 season, but until then: Abandon all hope, ye who root for the Knicks.
You can follow me on Twitter @Schmeelk for everything Knicks, Giants, Yankees and the world of sports.
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