SBD/October 1, 2013/Franchises

Steve Mills Eases Concerns, Says Isiah Thomas Will Not Be Coming Back To Knicks

Mills (r) is expected to run the business side of the Knicks in his return
Recently hired Knicks President & GM Steve Mills yesterday said the team's former President Isiah Thomas "will not be coming back" to the franchise. Mills and Thomas worked together with the team from '03-08, but Mills yesterday appeared on ESPN Radio 98.7 N.Y.'s "The Michael Kay Show" and said, "I've known Isiah for a long time. He has a lot of good things going on in his life. ... I actually think, given his background and what he was able to get accomplished as the president of the Players Association, he's probably an excellent candidate for the Executive Director job at the NBA Players Association." Mills added that despite Thomas and Knicks Owner James Dolan having a "good relationship, he will not be coming back to the Knicks." Kay noted that Magic Johnson on Twitter was "really pushing" Mills for the vacant NBPA Exec Dir position and said, "You're so well respected that you probably would have gotten that job. So why choose this one over that one?" Mills said he "was very much interested" in the union position, but having the opportunity to "be involved in a franchise like the Knicks with an organization that I'm very comfortable … in a job that's about building a basketball organization and trying to win a championship, it was one that was more attractive to me." Mills said Dolan has "some ideas about what he wanted this organization to look like in terms of the structure," and he thought Mills "was the kind of guy that could help push this organization forward" ("The Michael Kay Show," ESPN Radio 98.7 N.Y., 9/30).

FUTURE PLANS: Mills was formally introduced yesterday, and in N.Y., Mitch Abramson notes while Mills "revealed little of the back-room dealings involving the Garden that led to his hire, he did disclose plans to hire more people to work under him." Mills did say that outgoing Exec VP & GM Glen Grunwald "would stay on to help in 'my transition.'" In one of the "more curious moments, Mills said he had no reservations about returning to the Garden and that he had no regrets of his time there from 1999-2009, even though he presided over a difficult period that included a sexual harassment suit against Thomas and the Garden that cost MSG millions" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/1). Also in N.Y., Frank Isola notes the hiring of Mills "seemingly came out of nowhere because it did." It was a "case of Dolan being Dolan and looking to blame someone for losing to a lower-seeded team and for the Nets invading his territory." What remains "unclear is how the appointment of Mills will affect several key members of the organization." The future of Dir of Player Personnel Mark Warkentien "is murky." Meanwhile, the "theory is that Mills will run the business side of the organization," while Assistant GM Allan Houston "will have an increased role in the day-to-day operations on the basketball side." Both will "report directly to Dolan, which is crucial for Mills" since MSG President & CEO Hank Ratner "was the driving force behind Mills being fired in the wake of the Anucha Browne Sanders sexual harassment lawsuit" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/1).

ALREADY CREATING SOME WAVES: In N.Y., Marc Berman noted agent Richard Kaplan "pounded the Knicks for their handling" of Grunwald. Kaplan in a text message wrote, "Steve is a great guy, but Glen's firing is absurd." Several league execs "were genuinely shocked at the timing of the move," as was Knicks F Carmelo Anthony. He said, "I was shocked. I never heard about it and nobody knew it was coming." Meanwhile, NBA Commissioner David Stern "defended the Knicks' decision, lauding Mills, who worked with Stern" in the '90s. Stern said that his "inexperience running a club day-to-day is a non-factor because of his past experience as the Garden's sports president where he also oversaw" the WNBA Liberty. Stern "declined to comment on his involvement in Mills’ hire, citing 'commissioner-owner privilege,' but acknowledged he knew of the hiring at the press conference." A source said that Dolan "got Stern’s endorsement recently." Another league exec said that Mills "recently attempted to put together funds to buy a sports team to no avail" (N.Y. POST, 9/28). Also in N.Y., Mike Lupica wrote Mills "isn’t a personnel guy, no matter how many friends he has in high places, and send up a flare if you think Allan Houston is the guy who’s going to take the orange-and-blue back to the promised land." The Knicks for the last year "were the best team in town," and Grunwald "still gets treated this way." Lupica: "What a place" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/29).
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