By John Schmeelk
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When the Knicks hired Scott Perry as general manager, there was understandable disagreement over the significance of the hire. With Steve Mills firmly in place above him as president of basketball operations and David Griffin having passed up the job because he would not be allowed to rework the front-office staff, there was speculation that the job would be far more symbolic than impactful. So far, those fears appear to be wrong.
When Perry was hired, Mills said that the new GM would have the power to remake the basketball operations department, and he appears to be doing just that. Last week, the Knicks announced a number of front-office additions, many of which have connections to Perry in some way, shape or form.
Gerald Madkins, a former Knicks scout and someone who worked with Perry during his brief stint with the SuperSonics, will come over from the Clippers to be the team’s assistant general manager. Harold Ellis will be the new director of player personnel after being director of pro scouting in Orlando when Perry worked there. Michael Arcieri, the team’s new director of basketball strategy, also worked with Perry in Orlando.
Craig Robinson, Steve Mills’ former Princeton teammate, will be the new vice president of player development. Former Knick Fred Cofield was added as a scout.
There is no indication, however, than anyone of significance from the holdover staff has been fired or demoted. Allan Houston, Jamie Matthews, Mark Hughes, Mark Warkentien and Kevin Wilson are all still listed in their previous positions on the Knicks’ website. Many have reported about a negative survivalist and back-stabbing culture in the front office at Madison Square Garden that has potentially held the Knicks back in the past. It has been the target of some criticism, and there are questions about whether that will change if so many of the old faces remain. How Perry and the new regime handle the media will be a decent early indicator.
The hope would be that adding many new faces, along with a new general manager, will inject enough new blood into the building to build the type of teamwork and culture Perry talked about at his introductory news conference.
The questions about whether many of the Knicks’ holdovers should be let go are fair. But despite the team’s struggles the past few years, they have drafted well and made some good low-level free agent additions that have helped the team. That’s an indication that parts of the front office were functioning well. The Knicks are also retaining Clarence Gaines as a scout, the man credited for convincing Phil Jackson to draft Kristaps Porzingis. That’s a good thing, too.
Time will tell whether or not these hires will be good ones, and whether they will evaluate players well enough and make enough good decisions to make the Knicks relevant again. Anyone who tells you they know for sure whether this new group will fail or succeed are lying. Results will be the only judge of that. The mere fact, however, that these additions were allowed at all may indicate that Mills and owner James Dolan do actually want to change the way the Knicks have operated in the past.
If this new group can take what the former staff members did well and help fix some of the larger mistakes the past regimes have made (Joakim Noah, Eddy Curry, etc), and the owner stays away from basketball operations as he has promised, the Knicks might finally be on the right path.
For everything Knicks, Giants, and the world of sports, follow John on Twitter at @Schmeelk