John Gabriel Rumors
The confusing flow chart added a somber footnote when in December 2010 Gabriel noticed his ring finger quivering, It led to a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative disorder that robs a person of the ability to control normal movements. He took some time off the basketball grind for health reasons, all while raising more than a half-million dollars for the Parkinson’s Association of Central Florida. “I stepped away from the Knicks about a year and a half ago to take care of myself,” Gabriel said. “My schedule isn’t what it used to be. I probably couldn’t handle the day-to-day rigors of it but in the role that I play I hope to bring something to the table, whether it’s to be a sounding board or to be able to reflect on history after 35 years. That will suffice.”
In addition to agreeing last March to keep Mills as his right-hand man — upon owner James Dolan’ s recommendation — Jackson retained veteran executive John Gabriel, promoted from director of pro scouting to director of basketball operations, and gave him more influence. Player personnel director Mark Warkentien, meanwhile, lost some power. He interviewed in Memphis for a front-office position that ultimately went to former Nets president Ed Stefanski.
Pat Williams and John Gabriel share an even deeper bond today: A profound appreciation for life as inspiring survivors of incurable but treatable illnesses. The two basketball lifers who spent countless hours together more than 25 years ago — planning the Magic’s launch as an expansion franchise — warmly check on each other now for health updates.
The illnesses have exacted tolls on their bodies. But their indomitable spirits remain intact, allowing them to carry on and deliver messages spoken and unspoken. “Stay involved with life. That’s the whole key,” Williams said. “Sitting home doing nothing could be deadly.” Says Gabriel, “It’s a major pause in your life. You call a timeout and get yourself back in the game.” The former Magic general managers — Gabe succeeded Pat and served as GM (1996-2004) — still regularly attend Magic games. Williams, 73, is now a senior VP with the Magic; Gabriel, 57, still maintains his Winter Park home while serving as the New York Knicks’ director of scouting.
“Oh, boy, John,” Pat said, despondently, after Gabriel delivered his news. Then Gabe said that Pat — in typical upbeat Williams-style whimsy — – quipped, “Well, Gabe, we’re two peas in a pod, I guess.” Several months later, Gabriel was on a Saturday summer bike ride in Ocean City, N.J. A church marquee caught his eye — Sunday’s guest speaker: Pat Williams.
Mills added he doesn’t have immediate plans to add another body to the front office but will “restructure’’ some of the positions. Assistant GM Allan Houston, player personnel director Mark Warkentien and pro scouting directors John Gabriel and Mark Hughes work under Mills.
Maybe the New York Knicks had already guessed that something was amiss, that their director of pro scouting and free agency, John Gabriel, was not quite the same man they hired in 2008. Maybe they had noticed a twitch or a tremor, or had taken a quick mental snapshot of an otherwise vibrant 50-something executive traveling cautiously down a flight of stairs. Gabriel’s oldest brother, Pat, and his childhood friend and former colleague with the Orlando Magic, Tom Sterner, had long suspected something wasn’t right with him, yet they didn’t think it was their place to bring it up. Men. But Gabriel didn’t know for sure what his employer did or didn’t know. He only knew he’d been charged to help the Knicks acquire the kinds of stars he’d recruited to Orlando — Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady in the breathless summer of 2000, right after the nearest of near-misses on Tim Duncan — and now he was about to tell them something that wasn’t covered in any front-office playbook. I have Parkinson’s disease.