When exactly did Jim Dolan officially jump the shark? Was he ever really on the other side of it?
There is a breed of owner, senile Grandpa Al types with gin-flecked breath and yellowy eyes, ever ready with a unfashionable quip about race or gender or some such unmentionable thing, who despite it all still retain an oddball's charm. Well, that's not Jim Dolan. He's not even that guy. I'm racking my skull attempting to divine one endearing thing he's ever done, in 14 years just one moment of levity. There is none. The man simply fails all tests of sympathy He is mercurial without being meaningful, mean-spirited without being impactful. Therefore, in the happy spirit of the holidays, let's deconstruct the Knicks' owner by running him through the friendly confines of the Dummy Bros. scorecard. Let the evisceration begin!
# DUMMY BROS. SCORECARD #
Range (+10 to -10)
- Firing GM Glen Grunwald, Replacing him with Steve Mills
By all accounts Steve Mills is a competent and accomplished man. However, Mr. Mills one major contribution to the New York Knicks franchise was the hiring of Isiah Thomas. Oops. This was an unforgivable decision and one that us fans are still frankly paying for 10 years later. In contrast, Glen Grunwald helped to build the 2012-13 Knicks, a likable 54-win squad that were (in my opinion) slight overachievers. (Honestly, there was simply no way the Knicks were beating the younger, stronger, longer Pacers in a best-of-seven. 54 wins and a competitive second round series was best case for New York.) Grunwald wasn't perfect, but he did nothing to cause such an abrupt and rude dismissal.
DUMMY SCORE: - 8 (Dolan doesn't like anyone smarter than him. Goodbye, Grunwald and Walsh. Hello Isiah!)
- Benching The Knicks City Dancers
Since the advent and evolution of advanced metrics in pro sports one data point in particular has proven axiomatic. All the finest minds from Sloan and MIT to the sports blogosphere are in uniform agreement on this point. What is this unassailable metric you ask? It's the DWTR (or dancing-to-win rate-correlation %). Simply put, the DWTR measures (using impossibly complex algorithms) the inverse correlation between the number and length of the home team's cheerleading/ dancing routines and the winning percentage of said home team. While many pundits saw Dolan's near extermination of the popular Knicks City Dancers as a petty move, I saw a brainy, modern owner embrace the latest in advanced criteria to improve his team's chance at winning.
Disagree? Ok, ok, I know, (I kid) it was a petty and pointless move made by an imbecile asshole. I'm sure Dolan doesn't even know how to spell metric. Moving on.
DUMMY SCORE: - 10 (There are no words...)
- Hiring A Stooge To Follow Head Coach Mike Woodson Everywhere He Goes
WTFF? Look Jimbo, if you don't trust the guy, then fire him. If you do trust him then by all means stop fracking spying on him 24/7!!! Why does everything Dolan does remind me of the final days of the Nixon White House? He's like pro sports' very own Kim Jong-un. I honestly thought this story was a swerve when I first heard it. Really I did. Mainly because isn't this type of thing, well, illegal?
DUMMY SCORE: - 9 (Just in case Woody does have a few skeletons in his walk-in closet)
- Mr. Smith Goes To Broadway
Can we talk about Chris Smith? Is it safe? Look, I truly admire JR Smith's blood loyalty. Blood is blood, and family is family, and you can't fault a man for trying to help his brother's dream come true. Having said that, roster spots in the NBA are precious few (particularly for playoff caliber clubs). This rouse is yet another illustration of Dolan's "Boss Tweed" sensibility. There were at least a dozen better candidates for this final roster spot that I can think of off the top of my head and I'm half-drunk.
DUMMY SCORE: - 8 (The Knicks are 3-13 for chrissakes! We could use all the help we can get.)
- Crushing Linsanity
Allow me to throw a scenario at you...
Lets say you are a team that has had only one winning season in the last ten years. A team wherein finishing 12th in the Eastern Conference is actually considered a better than average season. Then, let's say (for sh*ts and gigs) this team was run by a clueless GM (later removed), who when he wasn't sexually harassing a female co-worker, and dishing out racist dismissals of the team's fan base, he was assembling the most expensive, least likable roster in the history of the Association. Then, after spending said decade roving in the bleak winless wilderness of Jerome James and Renaldo Balkman and Stephon Marbury and the like, this team happens upon an undrafted third string point guard from Harvard and boom! (The biggest pop culture phenomenon in recent NBA history is born!) They called it Linsanity, and it was like a a gift from the basketball gods. Finally, after a decade of darkness there was a bright beautiful light at the end of the tunnel. Can you guess what happened next? Can you? Well, Boss Dolan didn't like Jeremy Lin's "surly" attitude or some such thing and next thing you know Lin is in Rocket red and we've signed a bunch of half-done fifty-year olds with the money. Dolan made it all about himself, and not what was best for the team. And did I mention that we are 3-13 so far this year?.
DUMMY SCORE: - 10 (Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Still shaking my head.)
- Expecting The 2013-2014 Knicks To Win the NBA Championship
"He stood straight up and looked the world squarely in the fields and hills. To add weight to his words he stuck the rabbit bone in his hair. He spread his arms out wide. "I will go mad!" he announced."
- Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Omnibus
Madness has a certain vital charm to it. Honestly, I hesitate to use any phrase that might bestow, however indirectly, a layer of romanticized depth to a man (Dolan) I believe is lacking in the requisite insight to even attain the minimum standard for such an insult. Having said that, Dolan is just batshit nutty if he thinks the '13-'14 Knicks have a shot at an NBA Championship this season. The Knicks have no power forward, a star player (Melo) who is unwilling to play defense, an aging (at times awkward) roster, and a salary cap situation that makes adding another good player very difficult, if not downright impossible. They may be good enough for a 6 or 7 seed, and a competitive first round series, but that is it. Dolan's insanity notwithstanding.
DUMMY SCORE: - 7 (Did I mention that The Knicks are currently 3-13? I did? Ok.)
- Blaming Donnie Walsh's Wheelchair For The Knicks Failure To Sign LeBron
There are many reasons LeBron James did not sign with the Knicks in the summer of 2010. Just jotting a few off the top of my head here: mediocre roster, demanding (and knowledgeable) fan base, aggressive 24/7 media presence, lack of future draft picks due to terrible trades (Isiah), unsuccessful and erratic ownership group, salary cap concerns, the fact that the Knicks had one winning season in the previous ten and had become a universal punchline in pro sports, etcetera etcetera. Not a single one had to do with Donnie Walsh being in a wheelchair during the negotiations.
But Jim Dolan, in his infinite wisdom, saw fit to blame Walsh (one of the NBA's most respected minds) and the aesthetics of the older man's temporary impairment due to hip surgery, for the Knicks failure to land King James. As if LeBron wasn't going to sign with the team that gave him the very best opportunity to win multiple championships and cement his legacy as an all-time great, but with the team that gave the flashiest pitch. I'm certain Dolan is convinced to this day that if he brought in Usher riding sideways on a Bengal tiger singing "New York, New York," while Isiah flew around him on a hoverboard lobbing benjis his way, that LBJ would be wearing the blue and orange right now.
DUMMY SCORE: - 10 (A truly mean-spirited thing to do, Jimbo)
- Firing Marv Albert, Standing By Isiah Thomas
Marv Albert is arguably the best play-by-play man in NBA history. (And a hometown guy to boot) Isiah Thomas is arguably the worst GM in modern NBA history. Guess which one Jim Dolan exiled and which one he supported in perpetuity like a beloved son? Exactly.
DUMMY SCORE: - 10 (SMFH...)
- No Playoff Wins for Ten Years (2001-2011)
In the previous ten year period (1991-2001) the Knicks had 67 playoff victories! Is it any coincidence then that Dolan started asserting himself as owner in 2001? Only Charlotte, an expansion team with serious ownership issues of it's own, matched New York for futility in that dark decade.
DUMMY SCORE: - 10 (See above chart...)
- Opening For The Eagles
I would never begrudge a man for pursuing his passions. I love music and I love playing music and if I had Dolan's bankroll (from his Daddy of course) I'd probably assemble a quality roster of top flight musicians to play with myself. In addition, I think it's really cool that his son plays in the band as well. Really I do. Ok, now that I've gotten all jazz out of the way, let me say this...If Dolan wasn't a billionaire he would be lucky to be selling day-old pretzels and bootleg t-shirts out of the back of his truck in the parking lot during an Eagles' concert, to say nothing of opening for the Hall of Fame act! The Eagles are one of America's greatest living bands and the notion that Jim Dolan would be anywhere near that stage sans his family's immense fortune and connections is a world class farce.
DUMMY SCORE: - 10 (The Eagles? Really?)
Final Grade: - 92 (Verdict: All-Time FAIL)
Let me conclude by saying this, I don't believe Jim Dolan to be purposely fiendish. Rather, I think of him more as incomprehensibly foolish. He seems to be a man with no innate ability to gauge his own mistakes. As a Knicks' fan I'm still rooting for him to figure it all out. Because if he succeeds, we all succeed. Let's just say however that I'm not holding my breath.