There’s skepticism around the league that Stoute can …

There’s skepticism around the league that Stoute can make any difference in turning the Knicks around. “That’s just another foolish thing from Dolan. He’s saying Steve Stoute will help me get those guys (superstar free agents) and they don’t realize it – it’s not about that,” said a longtime NBA executive whose team worked with Stoute. Added another executive, “Steve is going to take his check and say, ‘Hey, I tried.’”

More on Knicks Front Office

From that chaos and confusion, Steve Stoute emerged Tuesday to declare he’s a prominent voice in the organization and, once again, the Knicks are chasing superstars. “The biggest thing is getting free agents and players to know this is a place to show up, this is where they should be,” Stoute said on ESPN’s ‘First Take.’ “I think that narrative has been lost. Players haven’t come, a free agent hasn’t come. And if we can solve that problem, which I know we will, we have a great chance. We’re the most iconic team in the league by far.”
Stoute didn’t go into great detail about his plan but the overall message was that the Knicks are a marquee franchise and will act accordingly. That means attracting superstar players, personalities and a dynamic coach. What was assumed about interim coach Mike Miller’s future was essentially confirmed by Stoute — that Miller’s playing out the string this season. “There had to be a change in (firing team president Steve Mills). That change will bring a new coach and new coaches that are going to help develop these younger players,” Stoute said. “And they got some young players — you see RJ Barrett, Mitch Robinson. They got something to work with. And getting a coach in there and ultimately getting a coach and a coaching staff that’s going to help develop a team. That’s what I expect to happen so that we can actually get to what you expect from a New York team.”
The Knicks, recognizing the audaciousness of a “branding consultant” essentially firing the head coach on ESPN, issued a statement disassociating themselves from Stoute’s comments. But it was clear that Stoute, at least in his own mind, carries heavy influence over the organization moving forward, beyond his rebranding expertise.
After internal discussions with the New York Knicks occurred about the possibility of “Worldwide Wes” joining the franchise in a front office role alongside player agent Leon Rose, William Wesley is no longer expected to join the franchise in any formal capacity, league sources have told The Athletic.
Also, Paul is coming off a week where his name made the headlines as a candidate to replace Steve Mills, who was fired as president of the New York Knicks. He told CNBC the timing to depart Klutch and oversee an NBA team is “premature” but vouched for longtime player-agent Leon Rose, who will reportedly take over as Knicks president of basketball operations.
Mike Vorkunov: Knicks released a statement about Steve Stoute, saying that personnel decisions will be made by new team president. “While Steve Stoute is a valued contributor to the Knicks’ marketing and branding efforts, he does not speak on behalf of NY Knicks personnel & basketball ops."
If owner James Dolan went with another agent/manager type in Rich Kleiman, who is partnered with Kevin Durant, Mark Jackson would’ve been a shoo-in for the Knicks job. Dolan didn’t consider Kleiman, fearing Knicks fans still blame Kleiman for failing to deliver KD, according to sources.
Last week, the Knicks parted ways with longtime executive Steve Mills, and multiple reports indicated the team was close to an agreement with Rose to take over. The deal came together quickly, catching his longest-running clients by just as much surprise as everyone else. "I'm still in shock," Anthony told Bleacher Report on Sunday night after the Blazers' 115-109 win over the Miami Heat. "I didn't know until this week. There's a lot to figure out and finalize. I'm sure he's going to take [the job], but it's all new."
On Friday at his press conference, University of Kentucky head basketball coach John Calipari spoke about potentially being linked to the Knicks head coaching job under Leon Rose. "Let me say this: first of all, I haven't talked to Leon, so I don't know if it's done, if he's doing it," Calipari said. "I have no idea. But let me tell you about him: I've known him for 25 years -- dear friend. In a rough-and-tumble business -- really, that business he was in was a sport, too, like body-to-body contact, it is -- and I've never heard anyone in 25 years say anything bad about Leon Rose. He's a gatherer, he's a culture-builder. I'd help him in any way I could, being a resource. You want to call and ask me about college players, my own players, I'm here. It just wouldn't be to coach."
Here’s the most important William Wesley fact for Knick fans: Many years ago, I stood talking to him pre-game, in Philadelphia, when David Stern, then still commissioner, marched up, said hello, and validated one of Wesley’s key claims to fame. He thanked Wesley for getting NBA stars to play for Team USA. In other words, Wesley has more pull with Dream Teamers than … the NBA. Wesley can call the best players on the planet and say “I need you to play,” and they show up. (Many people told me Wesley stayed on the boat with the Dream Team at the Athens Olympics, which makes perfect sense.)
Wesley has this saying: “Everybody wants to make the quick nickel. Nobody wants to make a slow dime.” It means a lot of things. Get good grades! Eat right! Don’t get in trouble with the police! Think long term! But it applies every bit as much to Dolan. Will Rose and Wesley really have the time to go all in, building a program with the culture to lure the many players in their sphere? Phil Jackson was once seen as a genius with pull, too. Rebuilding in the NBA is a long-term project, Dolan is a short-term panic purchaser, throwing quick nickels at everything.
Despite his long-term relationship with Leon Rose, the CAA super-agent who is expected to be the team’s new president, the Kentucky coach nipped that rumor in the bud, telling reporters on Friday he will help Rose any way he can, “it just wouldn’t be to coach.” Calipari was effusive in his praise of Rose. “I’ve never heard anyone in 25 years say anything bad about Leon Rose,” he said. “He’s a gatherer, he’s a culture-builder.”
“I think if they allow Leon to surround himself with good people, he will do well,” a longtime NBA executive told “GMs in this league really respect Leon. They liked working with Leon. He is always fair. Being in New York, there will be some of his former clients who want to go there. But they have to allow him to put people in place that he trusts. He came from the bottom of the agency industry and worked his way up. He understands the structure of the NBA, of a front office. He gets the day-to-day. He won’t be Phil Jackson—he will be in the office every day doing the job.”
One NBA source said one of Mills’ failures was his lack of leadership qualities. Rose oversaw the CAA basketball department, so he was in a leadership role in that sense.
Frank Isola: Leon Rose maintained a good relationship with Jim Dolan over the last 10 years. Obviously, getting Carmelo to the Knicks was a huge part of it. He’s got ties to a lot of coaches including JVG, Thibodeau, Mark Jackson and John Calipari.
Jeff Goodman: World Wide Wes now with the Knicks. Knicks need a coach. Wes’ buddy is John Calipari. Just sayin’.
Marc Berman: Leon Rose has been around Knicks forever. One of first clients was Rick Brunson. And he helped with the Eddy Curry Bulls trade to Knicks.
Kevin O'Connor: Leon Rose and Worldwide Wes to the Knicks is fascinating. At CAA Rose represented Towns, Booker, Embiid, Kuzma. Keep in mind Towns, Booker and D’Angelo Russell—another CAA client—said last summer they’d someday like to team up. Smart decision by the Knicks to hire Rose and Wes.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Reporting with @RamonaShelburne: CAA player agent Leon Rose has emerged as a top target to run the New York Knicks basketball operations, league sources tell ESPN.
Marc Berman: Several agents have thrown hat in ring but told CAA’s Leon Rose has “momentum”, per source. Former Carmelo Anthony rep is at many Knicks games. Out of Cherry Hill, N.J. Former LeBron rep.
James Dolan’s fast pace doesn’t appear to bode well for the candidacy of Raptors president Masai Ujiri, who has been high on the owner’s wish list. According to a source, Dolan has been leery on Ujiri, with the mounds of publicity he has gotten as a candidate and using the Knicks as leverage with Toronto.
Mills negotiated with teams on trades up until Monday, according to the source, and several packages are in place for acting Knicks president Scott Perry with which to work. Trading Marcus Morris for a collection of assets and dealing with Golden State for point guard D’Angelo Russell are still on the table, according to the source.
A few notes in the wake of the Knicks' removal of Steve Mills as team president: We know that there was some division in the organization over the direction to take at the NBA trade deadline. Some wanted to remain patient, hold on to draft picks, and preserve cap space. They felt that was the best way to build out the roster, generally, and to remain in play for top free agents in future summers.
Last month, the Knicks hired Steve Stoute and his agency to help bolster the team's brand and ties to the fan base. Since being hired, Stoute has had strong influence with Dolan and the organization, as you'd expect. His hiring was endorsed by LeBron James. When reached last night by email to ask about his influence in the organization, Stoute said, "I work with Jim and his leadership team...I'm proud to be a part of this organization...We haven't even gotten started yet...There are great things ahead for the NY Knicks."
So how can the Knicks break out of this terrible stretch and get back to respectability? Shaquille O’Neal laid it out on TNT Tuesday night. “When Mr. Dolan was walking out of the arena the other day, the whole crowd was yelling ‘Sell the team.’ So whoever he hires, I just hope he doesn’t micromanage,” Shaq said. “You need to let a guy be able to do his thing. When I was playing in Miami, Pat Riley ran the show. Micky Arison owns it, but Pat Riley ran the show. When I was with the Lakers, Jerry West ran the show. So whoever they hire, I just hope Mr. Dolan just stays out the way.”
If Dolan can make the right hire — perhaps Masai Ujiri — and leave that person alone, it could help lure superstars back to the Garden. “I don’t really understand why people don’t want to come to New York. I’ve talked to a lot of players on why they don’t want to come to New York,” Shaq said, “and basically they said the management stinks.”
Neil Olshey: The Blazers leader and former Clippers executive is originally from Flushing. According to sources, Olshey has never been enamored living in a small-market town. He was once an aspiring soap-opera actor and has the flair to run the Knicks.
The first is one of availability. Is he willing to go and is Toronto willing to let him walk? He’s reportedly under contract through 2020-21, and the Raptors could presumably sign him to an extension if they wished. There is scuttlebutt out there that he’s itching for another challenge and has eyes for a large American market (this point also came up in league circles when the Washington job was open) and that the Raptors’ ownership might be okay letting somebody else pay him an eight-figure salary while they promote GM Bobby Webster.
With owner James Dolan looking at making various agents as potential presidential candidates, don’t sleep on Kevin Durant’s man, Rich Kleiman, according to NBA sources. Kleiman, a native New Yorker, has always desired to run the Knicks. Kleiman was a force in having Durant at least consider the Knicks last year. The scuttlebutt was Durant would join the Knicks and Kleiman would take on a prominent front-office role. That possibility slammed shut when Durant chose the Nets, along with Kyrie Irving.
If Kleiman were to run the Knicks, sources close to him said he’d likely hire former St. John’s star Mark Jackson as head coach. Kleiman has a long relationship with Jackson and, sources said, he believed that Jackson should have been the hire in 2018 when David Fizdale got the gig.
Besides a lot of money and a lot of freedom, no one knows what Dolan is looking for, although league sources believe Toronto Raptors top executive Masai Ujiri is intrigued with the job and the thought of being wanted by the flagship franchise.
Some league insiders also have questioned whether Dolan is as all-in on Ujiri as advertised, because of the perception in various corners that the league office (specifically N.B.A. Commissioner Adam Silver) is pushing Ujiri as the ideal candidate to try to rescue the Knicks. Memories of Ujiri famously fleecing the Knicks in the Carmelo Anthony trade when he was in Denver in 2011, and again in the Andrea Bargnani trade in 2013, are likewise described as potential Dolan turnoffs.
We now know that Steve Mills is out with the Knicks. We also know that people of influence at Madison Square Garden have been, in the words of one source, 'obsessed' with Toronto president Masai Ujiri. We don't know what, specifically, the Knicks would need offer the Raptors to land Ujiri, who is under contract through 2020-21.
But teams talk, and a baseline of two first-round picks is where multiple SNY sources familiar with the dynamic of such negotiations, who were polled in December, expect any Knicks-Ujiri talks to start. When talking about the Knicks-Ujiri hypothetical, it's fair to assume that Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment chairman Larry Tannenbaum will want at least two firsts in a package for Ujiri.
Marc Stein: The Knicks' statement on Steve Mills' exit ...
Adrian Wojnarowski: Masai Ujiri has long been Jim Dolan's dream candidate to run Knicks, but here's what's already complicating that pursuit: Ujiri's contract, and Knicks reluctance to give up draft compensation to Toronto, sources tell ESPN.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Dolan has already had converations with one possible candidate, sources tell ESPN. The process for a successor is likely moving faster than the time needed to wait on an Ujiri courtship.
Marc Stein: There have been strong rumblings since December that the Knicks believe they have a real shot to lure Masai Ujiri away from Toronto to take over. Of course, many also believed the Knicks knew they were getting Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving when they traded away Kristaps Porzingis
Adrian Wojnarowski: Knicks owner Jim Dolan is targeting Toronto president Masai Ujiri to ultimately oversee New York’s operations, league sources tell ESPN. He is under contract through 2020-2021 in Toronto.
Ian Begley: Knicks owner James Dolan will interview new candidates for team presidency, sources say. Expect Masai Ujiri to be at the top of the list.
Either way, decisions will have to be made on the front office after the season. Both Mills and GM Scott Perry have separate mutual contract options for next season, according to a source, meaning they’d have to be picked up by both themselves and the Knicks to return. Dolan would love to pry Masai Ujiri out of Toronto, but there’s skepticism it can done with the team president under contract. Such a deal would be very complicated if the Raptors play hardball. Another name being mentioned around the league is Thunder president Sam Presti. Rockets president Daryl Morey is expected to be a free agent but is saddled with the China controversy. According to ESPN, Morey’s tweet supporting Hong Kong cost the NBA between $150 million and $200 million in Chinese-driven revenue. The league can say whatever for PR purposes but the preference is Morey’s departure.
"I've been talking about this the last 5-10 years. This is not a new low for the Knicks because you can't get any lower than they've already been," Pierce said. "Everybody is waiting for this franchise to get some relevancy. "Free agents are passing on them. Losing (Kevin) Durant and Kyrie (Irving) to Brooklyn, not getting Zion (Williamson). Something has to change for the Knicks and I truly believe once they get new ownership you'll see change. You saw it with the Clippers. Look what happened with the Clippers. Now they're a perennially playoff team, they got better ownership and they're a championship-contending team now."
Leonard told New York reporters he did not consider the Knicks a free-agent option during this past offseason. Knicks brass, however, did not consider Leonard’s comment a blow. In fact, it only confirmed the decision to pass on a meeting with the 2019 Finals MVP that would have taken place four days into free agency. The Post reported then that the Knicks considered themselves extreme long shots for Leonard. When they found out a meeting couldn’t take place until after he met with the Lakers, Clippers and Raptors, they decided to move on and sign players to fill their $70 million worth of cap space.
Several teams in touch with the Knicks recently came away with the impression that they aren't solely focused on acquiring draft picks, expiring contracts or young players who have struggled with other teams in trades. Those teams say the Knicks have shown an interest in acquiring starter-level players who can help the team in the short-term and in future seasons, per sources.
Steve Popper: Doc Rivers talking about the impromptu press conference Mills and Perry held 10 games in: "That was bad. I think we all know that."
According to an NBA source, Blatt, who coached in Israel, Turkey and Greece, will do some European scouting. Though his title as consultant to basketball operations is vague, he will be used in many capacities in evaluating players — and perhaps will help unlock the mystery that is French point guard Frank Ntilikina. Evaluating and giving input to Miller also will be part of Blatt’s gig.
The Knicks on Wednesday announced the hiring of Blatt, who played at Princeton alongside Steve Mills, their president of basketball operations. It’s a strictly front-office position for Blatt, who also announced his retirement from coaching on Wednesday, four months after he said in a public letter that he had multiple sclerosis. “I look forward to the next step in my career as I officially retire from coaching and pursue other opportunities in basketball,” Blatt said in a statement.
That Mills was able to add to his basketball operations staff may be interpreted in some corners as a positive sign for the under-fire executive. The Knicks’ team owner, James L. Dolan, is widely believed to be considering the pursuit of a more established lead voice for the front office — such as Toronto’s Masai Ujiri — after a 4-18 start led to the recent firing of Coach David Fizdale.
David Blatt has joined the Knicks as a basketball operations consultant, the club announced Wednesday. Blatt, the former head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, was one of the finalists for the Knicks' head-coaching vacancies in 2016 and 2018. Those jobs ultimately went to Jeff Hornacek and David Fizdale, respectively. Blatt has retired from coaching and is expected to consult with the Knicks' front office in scouting and player evaluation for the NBA club and the Westchester Knicks, the franchise's G League team.
Blatt was at the Knicks' facility on Wednesday chatting with Mills, Perry, and Allan Houston, the assistant to the general manager. He also spoke with interim head coach Mike Miller. "I think it's a great resource for the organization," Miller said Wednesday of the Blatt hire.
Jeff Van Gundy, who could be a Knicks coaching candidate if they move on from interim coach Mike Miller, admitted the franchise has not showed proper direction since former president Dave Checketts left the organization in 2001. Van Gundy said Checketts was “a great leader.’’ “Since then they’ve never settled on a direction of leader from a general manager standpoint or a coach,’’ Van Gundy said on Sirius Radio on Friday prior to the Knicks beating the Kings 103-101. “It’s been constant change and unfortunately that amount of change has led to an inconsistency of philosophy, of belief, and I just think they have to settle and give whoever they pick next the opportunity to grow and evolve.
A source said last week that Mills and Perry are under significant pressure following the firing of head coach David Fizdale. If Mills is let go the Knicks will likely turn their attention to Toronto exec Masai Ujiri. Sam Presti also has fans within the organization. If Mills was let go in season, the expectation is that Perry would take over for the remainder of the year.
Just don’t expect him to get involved with the Knicks’ current situation. While the league’s most popular team in its biggest market is 4-19 this season — and on its way to missing the playoffs for the seventh straight year and 13th out of 16 — Silver told WFAN Radio in New York last week that he will be hands off. Here is the exact quote, with transcription via Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. “I wouldn’t. It’s not my role,” Silver said Thursday on WFAN. “Of course, I work for 30 teams. And the 29 other teams want to beat that team. That’s not to say me getting involved (would be good) and that I’m in any better position to know what to do. We set the rules. And then we try to have a level playing field for the teams to compete.”
Will the Knicks have a shot at landing Ujiri? That's unclear. But once the Knicks started struggling last month, multiple Madison Square Garden people in positions of influence have been 'obsessed' with - and 'enamored' by - the Raptors executive, per SNY sources. In order to land Ujiri, it will probably take significant money and full autonomy. Whether Knicks owner James Dolan will grant that kind of autonomy remains to be seen.
Influential voices in the NBA have strongly advised Ujiri not to take the job, if it's ever offered, sources say. But those same sources say Ujiri might do it anyway, if the money is right, if he's granted the necessary autonomy and if Dolan funds Giants of Africa as generously as the Raptors ownership group has. Ujiri's contract is believed to run through 2021 but with an out clause under certain circumstances. He turned down a lucrative extension last summer, sources said, leaving the impression that he wants to keep his options open.
The Knicks have hired and fired five lead basketball executives since 2004, including legendary NBA figures from Isiah Thomas to Donnie Walsh to Phil Jackson. All departed under clouds of various shapes, sizes and despairing shades of gray. Maybe it will be different for the next guy. Maybe the Knicks get lucky and lure a gifted executive like Toronto's Masai Ujiri to fix this mess. Some NBA sources believe it's possible.
Sources say Dolan is indeed enamored of Toronto's Masai Ujiri, who has twice fleeced the Knicks in trades (again, see Anthony, Carmelo and Bargnani, Andrea) and who last June presided over the first championship in Raptors history.
With Knicks president Steve Mills on shaky ground until the club shows progress, owner James Dolan could make another run at Raptors president Masai Ujiri. According to a source, if Mills is fired after the season, Dolan likely would renew his quest for Ujiri, who built the Raptors 2019 title team. “Why wouldn’t he — he’s the best GM in the league,’’ one NBA source said.
These last two seasons fall directly on Mills, who, according to sources, will either be reassigned or simply removed from the building. His expiration date is long overdue. The Athletic reported last month that Dolan will try again to pry Raptors President Masai Ujiri from Toronto. If that doesn’t work, maybe NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will point Dolan toward R.C. Buford, Sam Presti, Neil Olshey and Daryl Morey. The Knicks are in the early stages of another massive overhaul that will only work if Dolan gives his next executive savior full autonomy.
Storyline: Knicks Front Office
More HoopsHype Rumors
October 17, 2021 | 7:48 pm EDT Update
October 17, 2021 | 5:12 pm EDT Update