NEW YORK — New York Knicks owner James Dolan, who has put the WNBA’s New York Liberty up for sale, said he couldn’t rule out selling the Knicks if the right offer came along.
Dolan, who is chairman of Madison Square Garden and also owns the NHL’s New York Rangers, told ESPN’s Ian O’Connor in a wide-ranging interview released Monday that there have been “feelers” of offers upward of $5 billion for the Knicks, but that “no one has come through with a bonafide offer.”
“You hear numbers all the time,” Dolan told ESPN when asked about selling the team. “… I think people have sent feelers out, but never any that were pursued. Yeah, [the feelers are] around that number [$5 billion], but those things, it’s like a stock price. It’s only important if you’re going to buy or sell.”
Dolan, 63, said he loves the Knicks and Rangers, “but you still have a responsibility to your shareholders.”
“You have a responsibility as the guy who runs the place to deliver on that for them, that’s being open and transparent. And so in that position, I could never say that I wouldn’t consider selling the Knicks. Now, my family is not in that position, and they are the majority shareholders. They hold the majority of the vote. … As a majority owner, I don’t want to sell, either. As the head of the public company, you can’t say you can’t sell, because then you’re telling your shareholders that your own personal feelings about your assets are more important than their money. And they won’t invest with you if you do that.”
Dolan took over as chairman of Madison Square Garden in 1999. The Knicks made the NBA Finals in his first year. They haven’t been back since as the team has gone through seven team presidents and 12 head coaches — only two of whom (Jeff Van Gundy and Mike Woodson) have had winning records.
The most recent failure — the three-year reign of team president Phil Jackson from 2014-17 — yielded an 80-166 record. Dolan said he thinks Jackson, who won 11 NBA championships as a coach with Chicago and the Los Angeles Lakers, failed in the front office because he couldn’t convince the team to buy into his trademark triangle offense.
“I think he got ‘yessed’ a lot,” Dolan said, “I think they’d be underneath their breath going, ‘This is not a great idea,’ and he got into conflict with some players over it. But I think he tried hard to get his system in. I just don’t think he ever got it in.”
Dolan also counts himself a fan of current ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy, who was the Knicks’ head coach when Dolan took over in 1999 and resigned early in the 2001-02 season. Dolan said he hadn’t heard that Van Gundy recently told ESPN that he wanted the Knicks job, but that he couldn’t argue with their hiring of David Fizdale.
“He wanted the job?” Dolan said. “Look, I’ll do whatever’s necessary to help the team. If Scott [Perry] and Steve [Mills] said Jeff’s the right guy, fine. But it was really their call. I didn’t meet anybody else other than Fiz. They said, ‘Look, he’s our pick. I want you to meet him.’ So I did. I wasn’t involved in the selection process at all.”
Dolan said he got out of the day-to-day operation of the Knicks when he hired Jackson, adding: “I became convinced that I didn’t think I could add anything to it.”
The interview with O’Connor is a rare one for Dolan, who sat for two hours to discuss basketball, business, his legal battles, his relationship with Harvey Weinstein and more — including his 25 years of sobriety after he said he nearly killed himself as a young man with alcohol and drugs.