Typically, a team’s consultant would work anonymously, never making front-page news. The New York Knicks, however, are no ordinary franchise. While the club recently shook up their front office, Steve Stoute, rather than Steve Mills, Leon Rose, or William Wesley, grabbed the headlines.
Stoute, at least in theory, is working behind the scenes to help the Knicks return to relevance. On Tuesday morning, however, he went on TV and gave the organization a new headache.
The New York Knicks turn to Steve Stoute for help
On paper, the New York Knicks should be an iconic franchise. The club boasts a rich history, highlighted by guys like Walt Frazier and Patrick Ewing, and plays in a famous arena at the heart of a world-class, basketball-loving city. In reality, though, things are a bit different.
Since the start of the new millennium, the Knicks have only made the playoffs five times; four of those postseason appearances ended in the first round. The club can’t land a big free agent, and the front office hasn’t been able to piece together a competitive roster. James Dolan is generally considered one of the worst owners in sports, making the Knicks a mess from top to bottom.
With that reality in mind, the Knicks turned to Steve Stoute and his advertising agency, Translation, for some help. The company helped the Brooklyn Nets during their rebranding; while New York won’t be aiming for anything that drastic, they’ll hope Stoute can help change their image.
Steve Stoute is already making a mess
The New York Knicks hired Steve Stoute to try to change their public image. On Tuesday, however, the consultant gave his client a new headache.
Stoute appeared on ESPN’s First Take, where he offered his perspective on the organization’s outlook following Steve Mills’ firing. “They got some young players—you see RJ Barrett, Mitch Robinson,” the consultant explained. “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 what you expect from a New York team.”
While that’s a reasonable sentiment, there’s one problem. Following the firing of David Fizdale, Mike Miller took interim charge of the team. The Knicks haven’t commented on the permanence of his job; Stoute, however, seemed to imply that the club’s new president would want to bring in his own man.
That’s a perfectly reasonable sentiment, but the Knicks would prefer if their front office, not a branding consultant, broke the news. “While Steve Stoute is a valued contributor to the Knicks’ marketing and branding efforts, he does not speak on behalf of New York Knicks personnel and basketball operations,” the team said in a statement. “Any decisions regarding the operations of the team will be made by the new President of the New York Knicks.”
Rebranding or not, the Knicks are still the Knicks
In a vacuum, there’s nothing too egregious about Stoute’s comment or the Knicks official statement, the entire situation is emblematic of the state of the franchise. The New York Knicks, try as they might, can’t get out of their own way.
Hiring a new president should be a step in the right direction, but everything starts at the top. Under Dolan, everything around the organization is changed; Madison Square Garden has transformed into a place of pettiness and suspicion. A fish, as they say, rots from the head down.
Steve Stoute, by himself, isn’t a problem, but his comments underscore the New York Knicks’ issues. If a team can’t get the simple things, like not putting their foot in their mouth on national television, right, there’s no way they can build a roster and complete for a title.