The MSG blame game

by June 27, 2006

By Lang Whitaker
After 40 days and nights of pain and silence and mystery for Knicks fans, embattled Knicks president James Dolan and embattled head coach/GM Isiah Thomas finally met with the media yesterday to clear some things up. (There’s a lot of embattled to go around at Madison Square Garden right now.)

The Knicks invited the team’s seven regular beat writers to meet with the dynamic duo. According to a story in the New York Times this morning, some media members are upset about this. “I’m not a fan of managed news,” harrumphs local NBC sports anchorman Len Berman. (This from someone who wears makeup while reporting the news — if that’s not managing, I don’t know what is.) Look, I wasn’t invited either, and I understand why. Those seven guys who cover the Knicks daily not only come to occasional home games (like the NBC crew does), but they travel with the team for road games and attend practices and basically have no life outside of the Knicks. At least, they usually look that way. If yesterday’s event was opened up for a general press conference, you get what a NBA friend of mine refers to as “the freeloaders,” the writers who show up for stuff and take up space and then you never see anything they’ve written or hear from then again until the next event.

Now, I understand that Berman is angry moreso because the MSG Network, which is owned by James Dolan, was the only TV feed permitted to cover the event. Fine then. Then don’t report it, Len, and get scooped by all your competitors. Or start your own network and cover it yourself.

Anyway, there are varying accounts of the event, though most of them include words like “stunning” and “passionate” and “shocking.” The two things you need to know are:
1) Dolan said that Isiah needs to show improvement next year.
2) Larry Brown took the blame for a lot of things.

As for Isiah showing improvement, it shouldn’t be hard. Brown did such a bizarre, disjointed job coaching the Knicks all season that it seemed to us at times that he was simply trying to be strange. As long as Isiah shows some consistency and some sort of plan for the team, being better than last year’s team will not be hard.

As for blaming Larry Brown for everything…it’s easy to do, because without Brown around to defend himself, the Knicks can sort of flush all their problems away and start anew. Trading for Steve Francis? Larry’s idea. Trading for Jalen Rose? Again, that was Larry’s idea. Making phone calls to other teams to talk unauthorized trades? Larry. Asking Isiah to waive half of the roster? That darn Larry.

My question is, where was Isiah during all of this? The general manager of the team has two main jobs. First, he’s got to manage the roster, which means bringing players in and sending players out while remaining fiscally responsible. Second, he’s got to manage the coach. The coaching staff takes care of the players, the coach takes care of the coaching staff.

But to say that all those trades were Larry’s idea and that Larry was acting wildly irresponsibly means that Isiah was either alseep at the wheel or was Larry Brown’s puppet. Which was it? We don’t know.

The people at want Dolan to sell the team. But maybe it’s easier than that — maybe he should just find better people to run his team.

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