Abraham and Smith
got back in their suits. Dolan went inside, calmly took a seat and said,
"O.K., show me what you got."
In January 2003
the Grammy Awards announced its nominations live on network TV from the Garden.
Dolan was due to be onstage with the artists and music industry types. But
despite being warned not to direct his limousine up a specific Garden ramp
because it would be congested, Dolan insisted on it, walked into the Garden
late and was steaming backstage as the show went on. "Find me a room so I
can yell louder than I've ever yelled before," he told subordinates. For 45
minutes he raged at the Garden managers. "Absolutely out of control,"
says one former Garden executive. "And everybody in the room had done his
job--and done it well."
"He flies off
the handle, and there's no rhyme or reason," says a former sports executive
at the Garden. "We'd walk out and say, 'That was a good meeting.' Why?
Because no one was torn apart."
basically his way or the highway," says former Garden vice president of
security John Fahy, who was fired after Dolan saw a suitcase under a nearby
chair during the Knicks' last playoff game in 2004. "Whether or not it's
right, it doesn't matter. I'd put some [security] on him, and he'd scream at
the guy to get away from him. But when somebody's not on him and there's a
problem? He wants to know where somebody is. You can't win with the
Both current and
former high-level employees from the Knicks, the Rangers, Madison Square Garden
and MSG Network testify to Dolan's need to constantly reassert his place at the
top of the food chain. They speak of a "reign of fear" or "culture
of paranoia" in which people are more concerned with pleasing Dolan than
doing an exemplary job. Most speak only under a guarantee of anonymity.
"They hate to be challenged," Bob Gutkowski, a longtime New York sports
executive and president of the Garden from 1991 through '94, says of the
Dolans. " Cablevision has always been a fighter: 'Never give up, never give
in, we're right, and we will do whatever we can do to win the battle.' That's
the most important thing: We can't be wrong."
None are shocked
by Dolan's dismissive reaction to Sanders's lawsuit against
Thomas--"absolutely baseless." A judge and jury will decide whether
he's right. But Sanders's dismissal is in keeping with Dolan's knee-jerk
combativeness. Since taking over the Garden he has fought the Nets and the
Yankees over cable rights; beat the Jets, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and
proponents of holding the 2012 Olympic Games in New York City over a proposed
West Side stadium that would have competed directly with Madison Square Garden;
and enraged Knicks fans by jettisoning longtime broadcaster Marv Albert from
MSG Network because of his on-air criticism of the team.
Anonymous members use a phrase, dry drunk, to describe "somebody who is not
drinking but hasn't changed who they are," Dolan says, raising two fists
into the air. "Part and parcel of a dry drunk is white-knuckling: No, I'm
not going to have that drink--even though I really want that drink. They're
hanging onto their sobriety. My sobriety is who I am now. I don't think every
day about being sober." But at his worst Dolan can exhibit every trait
commonly attributed to dry drunks: exaggerated self-importance, rigidly
judgmental outlook, impatience, childishness, irresponsible behavior,
irrational rationalization, projection and overreaction. "If you have most
of these, call your doctor," says one former Garden executive. "He's
got every one."
continually question Dolan's intelligence, and three former high-level
employees use the word dumb to describe him. But that's simplistic. After all,
he envisioned and helped organize the poignant Concert for New York City just
five weeks after 9/11, outpointed his father in Cablevision squabbles and
outmaneuvered Bloomberg in the stadium fight. (Dolan oversees Cablevision's
telecommunications services as well as its sports and entertainment properties;
his father has little to do with the hockey and basketball franchises.)
"He's not dumb," a New York sports executive with close knowledge of
Dolan's Garden says of Jim. "He's reckless. He was reckless with his
personal life, and now he's reckless with the teams."
But Dolan is not
always oblivious to the damage he does. "I'm still working on not losing my
temper," he says. "I'm always trying to be a better person, always
trying to be smarter, more compassionate, more successful in my
relationships.... I hate it when I bring somebody down.... And I've had to
apologize for myself."
memorable instance came in an October 2004 meeting at which Dolan took one look
at the projected costs for hockey broadcasts on MSG Network in '05, with
numbers far higher than those for '04, and started shouting. Mike McCarthy, the
president of MSG Network, tried to point out that the '04 NHL lockout had kept
costs down. Dolan wouldn't hear it, thinking he was somehow being taken, though
the higher '05 budget reflected only the assumption that the lockout would end
and games would be played. McCarthy quit soon after, and all he has said since
then is that "it was time for a change." Dolan tried to make amends,
e-mailing an apology to McCarthy and everyone else who had been in the room. It
was too late.