James Dolan Would Consider Selling Knicks at Right Price
In an interview with ESPN’s Ian O’Connor, New York Knicks owner James Dolan said he could be compelled to sell the team if the right offer came along. Dolan, who recently put the WNBA’s New York Liberty up for sale, says that some offers for the Knicks have already come in.
Dolan, who is also the chairman of the Knicks’ home venue, Madison Square Garden, said that some offers nearing $5 billion have already come in on the team. He added that “no one has come through with a bona fide offer,” which is why he has yet to part ways with the franchise.
Dolan said, “You hear numbers all the time. I think people have sent feelers out, but never any that were pursued. Yeah, [the feelers are] around that number [$5 billion], but those things, it’s like a stock price. It’s only important if you’re going to buy or sell.” Dolan is also the owner of the NHL’s New York Rangers, who also play their home games at Madison Square Garden. The 63-year-old says he loves owning both teams, but that at some point selling one or both of them could be the right move.
He added, “You have a responsibility as the guy who runs the place to deliver on that for them [team shareholders], that’s being open and transparent. And so in that position, I could never say that I wouldn’t consider selling the Knicks. Now, my family is not in that position, and they are the majority shareholders. They hold the majority of the vote. As majority owner, I don’t want to sell, either. As the head of the public company, you can’t say you can’t sell, because then you’re telling your shareholders that your own personal feelings about your assets are more important than their money. And they won’t invest with you if you do that.”
The Knicks have not won an NBA championship since Dolan took over in 1999. The team made it to the NBA Finals in his first season before losing the series to the San Antonio Spurs. That remains the team’s most recent trip to the championship round.
The franchise has undergone a series of high-profile leadership changes under Dolan’s watch, as well. The Knicks have cycled through 7 team presidents and 12 head coaches in the nearly 20 years Dolan has owned the team. Jeff Van Gundy and Mike Woodson are the only coaches to this point that have posted a winning record overall with the Knicks.
The Knicks’ most recent disaster involves the unsuccessful tenure of Phil Jackson as team president. The Knicks went just 80-166 during Jackson’s 3-year term in charge. Jackson, who has won 11 NBA titles as a head coach, blamed the team’s struggles on the Knicks’ reluctance to adopt his famed triangle offense. To be fair to the Knicks, Jackson’s preferred offensive style isn’t necessarily suited to survive in today’s 3-pointer-happy NBA.
Of Jackson, Dolan said, “I think he got ‘yessed’ a lot. I think they’d be underneath their breath going, ‘This is not a great idea,’ and he got into conflict with some players over it. But I think he tried hard to get his system in. I just don’t think he ever got it in.”
Dolan also said that he would have re-hired former coach Jeff Van Gundy had Van Gundy shown interest in the head coaching job this past summer. The Knicks ultimately hired former Grizzlies boss David Fizdale to take over. Van Gundy was the coach that led the Knicks to the Finals in 1999 before resigning halfway through the 2001-02 campaign. Van Gundy recently said that he wanted to get his old job back, but that he couldn’t argue with the team’s decision to go with a younger voice in Fizdale.
During the interview, Dolan sounded surprised that Van Gundy claimed to have wanted the job. Dolan said, “He wanted the job? Look, I’ll do whatever’s necessary to help the team. If Scott [Perry] and Steve [Mills] said Jeff’s the right guy, fine. But it was really their call. I didn’t meet anybody else other than Fiz. They said, ‘Look, he’s our pick. I want you to meet him.’ So I did. I wasn’t involved in the selection process at all.
Dolan used to have more of a voice regarding team personnel, but he agreed to take a step back after hiring Jackson as team president. He said, “I became convinced that I didn’t think I could add anything to it.”
The rebuilding Knicks are currently 9-22 under Fizdale this season. New York has not appeared in the playoffs since the 2012-13 campaign when the likes of Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups were leading the way.
According to Forbes, the Knicks are the NBA’s most valuable franchise, worth an estimated $3.6 billion. The Rangers are also the most valuable NHL franchise ($1.55 billion).
When asked why he has decided to try and sell the Liberty, Dolan said, “I don’t know how to be successful with the Liberty. We’ve always tried to be helpful with the league, and I believe in the Liberty product. If you go to a Liberty game, they’re fun basketball games to go to. But I’ll be damned if I know how to get people to go to those games. We’ve pumped tons of marketing dollars, we’ve done everything we can do to make the team successful, and people don’t come. I think it’s the time of year and the perception that the sport is not as good as the NBA.”
Dolan is the 10th-longest tenured owner in the NBA, and most evaluators believe he could receive in the neighborhood of a record $5 billion if he does ultimately choose to sell the Knicks any time soon.
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