Every sports fan dreams of their team landing a franchise-altering player. The New York Knicks, however, have whiffed again and again in free agency. The club is trying to turn things around in a different way, by handing former agent Leon Rose the keys to the franchise as president.
In his first official statement, though, Rose urged patience. While he believes the New York Knicks have some talented young players, he knows this won’t be a quick fix.
The New York Knicks’ fall from grace
The Knicks, however, weren’t always a doormat. The club won two NBA titles in the early 1970s, with players like Walt Frazier, Willis Reed, and Dave DeBusschere running the show. They returned to dominance in the 1990s, thanks to Patrick Ewing, but never could make it over the hump.
Since the turn of the new millennium, however, things have been much worse. The Knicks have only made the playoffs five times; four of those trips ended in the first round. While Carmelo Anthony and A’mare Stoudemire briefly helped the Garden faithful believe again, the franchise has turned into a laughing stock. Between consistently failing to sign a meaningful free agent, a general inability to get out of their own way, and arguably the worst owner in professional sports, Knicks fans haven’t had much to cheer about.
Leon Rose takes the job and immediately urges patience
Earlier in 2020, the New York Knicks decided to make a change. The club fired executive Steve Mills; while there were rumors of Masai Ujiri coming to town, the team tapped agent Leon Rose instead.
On Monday morning, the hiring became official. While the terms of the deal weren’t confirmed, we do know that Rose has taken over the presidency and will “oversee all basketball operations and personnel for the team.”
In an open letter to the fans, Rose noted that the Knicks have “young talent, significant future assets (including seven first round picks over the next four years), and an ample amount of financial flexibility.” Despite those strengths, he made no bones about the scale of the job. “Nothing about this is quick or easy,” he continued, “so I ask for your continued patience.”
If nothing else, Leon Rose is telling Knicks fans the right things
While it would be incredibly naive to make any judgments based on one written statement and a few hours on the job, Leon Rose does seem to have a point. It will be a long road, but the Knicks may finally have a road map to start moving in the right direction.
As Rose noted, the Knicks have financial flexibility and plenty of draft picks; that, in of itself, hasn’t been the norm at Madison Square Garden. That reality, coupled with Rose’s experience as an agent, should help the club slowly start to piece things back together. While it might not happen overnight, you’d have to assume a competently run Knicks team could land some free agents.
If nothing else, Rose has (metaphorically) looked the fans in the eye and acknowledged that there’s a problem. “To be successful in the NBA, you need the best talent, a tireless work ethic, a winning culture, and a total commitment to the development of both the individual and the team,” he wrote. “I know that the ability to forge solid, productive relationships is what binds that all together.”
In February 2018, the New York Rangers, who also play at Madison Square Garden, wrote an open letter to their fans explaining why the team felt the need to rebuild. While no one was happy to see players traded away, the letter engendered goodwill and understanding; the fans could see what the front office was trying to do and accepted their plan. While Leon Rose didn’t lay his cards on the table in quite the same way, his statement struck a similar tone.
Talking the talk, however, is one thing. In the coming months, Leon Rose will need to walk the walk.