Not every NBA team can have two-decade-long success like the San Antonio Spurs.
Most teams only have a three-year period where they are considered contenders. But when a franchise is consistently struggling to make the playoffs or find a culture to produce with, change needs to happen.
There’s one team out there that’s in desperate need of a house-cleaning: the New York Knicks.
The Knicks have been a franchise without a title since 1973. While they were competitive throughout the ’90s with star center Patrick Ewing, they have not seen much success since. A large part of this team’s struggle is coming from the owner James Dolan. Dolan has had full control of the team since 1998 and has made a plethora of mistakes that have cost the team success.
From 2004 to 2010, the team showed no interest in winning; their best finish was just 33 wins. The team struggled in the draft and kept trading away talented players and first-round picks for mediocrity.
The hiring of Isaiah Thomas was the catalyst for the Knicks’ problems during this time. Dolan hired a former Hall of Famer to run the team’s player operation. Thomas had no prior experience beforehand in the front office, making this decision very questionable to start.
During Thomas’s time as general manager (2003-2008), they went through six different head coaches. This shows instability in the front office. As the heads of the organization could not agree on the coach situations, coaches such as Lenny Wilkens and Larry Brown who, at the time, were considered good coaches, were thrust into a situation that would ultimately kick them out within a year.
The Knicks have had talent on their roster during this time as well. As players such as Stephon Marbury and Jamal Crawford were on the roster. Marbury, who was traded from the Phoenix Suns in 2004 to the Knicks, would always clash with the head coaches causing drama and friction between him and the front office. The friction between Dolan and the front office with Marbury was so bad that they eventually told the All-Star guard to stay away from the team until they could find a trade for him.
This would not be the last time the Knicks will hold out a healthy player from playing because they did not get along.
Even after Thomas’ tenure, which included time as the head coach, the Knicks found themselves in a good situation. They hired a coach that has been very successful in Phoenix and showed the capability of leading a team. They would hire Mike D’Antoni in 2008. Dolan placed D’Antoni in a terrible position, as the team was filled with terrible contracts and young players.
After two seasons of losing records, Dolan and the Knicks made a trade for a superstar player.
However, this trade would gravely ruin the Knicks organization. At the time, trading for Carmelo Anthony and Chancey Billups seemed like a great move, as both players would elevate the team to the playoffs. But the Knicks gave up their future and bench pieces to obtain the superstar forward.
Although, nobody can have the hindsight that Anthony would have gone to New York that offseason if the Knicks had not traded for him. Anthony did say that his time in Denver would have been over, and he would most likely sign to a big market like New York.
This means that if the team waited for Anthony in the offseason, they would not need to give up talented players such as Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, and Timofey Mozgov along with a 2014 first-round pick. They could have kept those players, and signed Anthony in the offseason; helping the team dearly in their playoff runs.
The Anthony and D’Antoni-led Knicks would only capture two playoff berths (2011-2012). In each of these seasons, drama was filled either between D’Antoni and Anthony, or Anthony and the front office.
Even though D’Antoni had multiple winning seasons with the Knicks, Dolan and the front office decided it was time to find a new head coach again.
They would hire Mike Woodson in 2012, and he would have some success early on. This season would be Woodson’s only winning season as a head coach, and would ultimately be the start of another painful “rebuild” for this organization. After the 2012 season, Anthony would find himself dealing with on-and-off injuries.
This caused frustration between the newly hired general manager Phil Jackson and the star forward. The two would go back and forth, taking shots at how they would play or manage a team. After another two seasons of losing basketball, Dolan and Jackson decided to have yet another coaching change.
This time, they hired a recently retired player Derek Fisher, another hire that Dolan wanted, and another inexperienced one at that. Fisher had a rough time as the head coach, as his best player (Anthony) started to fade away from superstardom. Jackson also did not help Fisher build a roster to contend. Jackson would move a Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler to the Dallas Mavericks for bench players, and two late-round picks in the 2014 draft.
Jackson was not very involved in the draft process, just like the Dolan. They both would skip out on the draft combine, and meetings with young prospects for one reason or another.
In the 2016-2017 season, Anthony made it clear to the Knicks that he would not re-sign with them when his contract would be up in 2018. For a season-and-a-half, Jackson and Dolan would take shots at Anthony for wanting out of New York. Drama filled the stands more than the fans would.
Fisher would be fired after just two seasons as the head coach.
Phil Jackson would be fired in 2017 after failing to trade Anthony and get along with their new upcoming star forward, Kristaps Porzingis. This would be their third GM that would be fired after having a tenure filled with drama and no rings to show for it.
The Knicks would eventually trade Anthony a few months later to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and a 2018 second-round pick. This shows that Anthony was tradeable and that Jackson was just too inept at trading him.
The coaching situation would start to worsen for this organization. As they would go through three coaches in four years: Kurt Rambis (2016), Jeff Hornacek (2016-2018), and David Fizdale (2018-2019). Dolan’s management of the front office created discourse with multiple players, and Porzingis caught on sooner than later.
The frustrated forward told the team that he would not play for them any longer and demanded a trade in 2018. The team with no choice had to trade their frustrated player to the Dallas Mavericks for DeAndre Jordan, Dennis Smith Jr., Wesley Matthews, and two future first-round picks.
This trade would be very costly, as both Jordan and Matthews would leave that offseason. They still have Smith on the team, and many believe that he still has the talent to be a contributor to most NBA teams, but the front office and coaching staff aren’t playing him.
The main reason for that is because they would have two other young guards that they either drafted or signed in free agency fighting for minutes as well. General manager Steven Mills, who filled in for Jackson, was recently fired due to a lack of success. He would build a better roster for the Knicks as Jackson and Thomas had failed to do, but the lack of talent and inability to trade talent for assets was Mills’ downfall.
With the team again failing to even come close to becoming a playoff team, the Knicks should try to clean house.
As for the roster that they have now, players should not be blamed for the Knicks’ bad management.
James Dolan needs to sell the team or start giving more authority to the front office and management. The Knicks are a historic franchise and the past two decades have been disgusting to follow as an NBA fan.
Change needs to happen now.