The New York Knicks turned heads when they opted to hire longtime agent Leon Rose to serve as the franchise’s president. While it’s not a knock on Rose — a respected name in the basketball community and the latest person to make the move from representing players to taking over a front office — it was a bit surprising because there was smoke for a not insignificant period of time that New York had its sights set on Toronto executive Masai Ujiri.
With his track record of success in Denver and Toronto and his role in building a team that won a title for the first time in Raptors history, it’s no surprise Ujiri would be in demand. Add in the resources the Knicks have at their disposal and Ujiri was as good of a bet as any to help New York get back to relevancy. There’s just a problem: James Dolan apparently didn’t want him.
According to the most recent edition of Marc Stein of the New York Times‘ newsletter, Dolan soured on the idea of bringing Ujiri on board. Why? As it turns out, Dolan was getting annoyed by people telling him that someone like Ujiri would be a good hire.
Dolan made his “I am not selling” statement while the recent hiring of Leon Rose as the newest Knicks president was still underway. Among the reasons Rose was chosen, I’m told, is that Dolan, had grown sick of people telling him he needed to pursue an experienced executive such as Toronto’s Masai Ujiri and turned to Rose instead after a decade of frequent business between the Knicks and Rose’s former employers at Creative Artists Agency.
Once again, hiring Rose isn’t necessarily a bad decision, and as Bob Myers in Golden State and Rob Pelinka in Los Angeles have shown, there are legitimate merits to hiring a former agent to run your franchise’s basketball operations. But things get put under a microscope, fairly or unfairly, in New York, and it’s not like Dolan has a history of being an especially popular owner, something that has been on display recently with the beef between himself and Knicks super fan Spike Lee. Put all of that together and something like Stein’s reporting is both perplexing and doesn’t seem all that surprising.