"I tell you:
After you do that, it makes it easier to control yourself," Dolan says.
"If you go and apologize, I'm not saying it fixes it, but it at least helps
me. I hope I'm getting better at it. Quitting smoking didn't help."
SO MAYBE the
common wisdom is right: Jim Dolan = Disaster. The New York Daily News just made
him its Anti-Sportsman of the Year. Knicks and Rangers fan sites all but catch
fire with incendiary rips of Dolan's stewardship. "He should stick to his
band," Fahy says.
tremendous passion," says Abraham, who left the Garden in 2004. "But if
you're not careful, passion becomes zealotry. What he does well is bring a
tremendous love of the Garden and its occupants. This is not a toy to him."
Asked if he thinks the Knicks can ever win with Dolan as their owner, Abraham
pauses and then says, very carefully, "The Knicks can't win as they are
Yet Abraham is
right about Dolan's love for the teams. If the man has a soft spot, it's for
talent. Dolan loves playing guitar because, he says, "I don't play
basketball, I don't play hockey, I don't hook up television sets, I don't
produce television shows. I'm an executive who manages those things, and I
think what I do has a lot to do with how successful they are. But I don't
actually do anything." Players play, however, and for those with great
talent, Dolan will do plenty.
ask for a better owner," says former Edmonton Oilers and Rangers great Mark
Messier. "He'll do anything in his power to create an environment that's
exactly what a player's looking for: state-of-the-art facilities, willingness
to spend money to try to win, the way the team is treated. There's not a better
place to play in the league, period. He's taken a bad rap. Jim would do
anything for a championship ring with the Knicks or Rangers and has proven he
will. Almost to a fault."
who played for the Rangers from 1996 to '99 and is now the Phoenix Coyotes'
part owner and coach, calls his experience with Dolan "tremendous. He would
call players in if they had family issues, or their wives were pregnant or
somebody was sick, and he would personally get involved. That's someone who
Mutombo says he's
"shocked" by Dolan's continuing support of his $29 million hospital
project in Kinshasa, capital of his native Democratic Republic of Congo. Not
only did Dolan put Knicks and Garden resources at Mutombo's disposal when he
played for New York, but also, in 2006, two years after Mutombo left the
Knicks, Dolan was still clearing space on MSG Network and Cablevision systems
and on the JumboTron during Knicks and Rangers games to run hospital
fund-raising ads. "Incredible," Mutombo says of Dolan. "Every time
I need money, I just have to make a phone call and ask him."
In 2005 Dolan
took a particular interest in Vin Baker, the four-time All-Star whose career
was derailed by alcohol abuse. He met with Baker five times during the one
season Baker played for the Knicks, sharing his own struggle, acting less like
a boss than "like a person in recovery, like a sponsor," Baker says. In
the summer of '04 Dolan stunned Baker by showing up at his golf tournament in
Hartford. "I had no idea he was coming," Baker says. "I gave him a
great big hug. He was just checking on me."
But then, in
those instances Dolan was dealing with people who respected him and his
"process": sticking to whatever plan he laid out. In response to the
tabloid face-off between Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy and general manager Ernie
Grunfeld during the 1999--2000 season--which, Dolan says, "blew the
organization apart"--Dolan instituted media training for all Garden
employees who might deal with the press and an ironclad rule against team
personnel criticizing others in the organization. The result is the hovering
presence of Garden public relations staffers during all interactions between
press and personnel, and a Big Brother reputation unsurpassed by any other team
in sports. The first time former NFL coach Bill Parcells called one Knicks
coach, he asked, "Is this a clean line? Have you had your phone checked to
make sure it's not bugged?" The coach giggled uneasily. "I wouldn't be
laughing," Parcells said. "They're listening in."
paranoid about what's written in a 50-cent newspaper than they are about
handing out $5 million a year to somebody who can't play," one former
high-ranking Garden official says of Dolan's staff. "Winning the media game
is more important than winning the game."