Lack of Leon Rose fanfare sheds light on his Knicks challenge

Lack of Leon Rose fanfare sheds light on his Knicks challenge

When Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni was informed the New York Knicks had hired a new team president, his response was classic.

“That’s news?” he said in a sarcastic chuckle.

Then again, he had a point.

The way the Knicks have gone through team presidents (three in three years) the fact there was a change at the top of the organization’s basketball operations isn’t exactly a rare occurrence.

Perhaps that’s why the announcement Knicks owner James Dolan had named Leon Rose as the new team president landed somewhere between the fanfare of Phil Jackson’s arrival in 2014 and the familiarity of Steve Mills, who was fired last month after nearly three years on the job.

Rose’s arrival generated not much more than a collective shrug. There wasn’t even a press conference to trumpet his arrival. Instead there was an informal meet-and-greet with some media members, which could be the last we hear and see of Rose as he undergoes the task of trying to turn the Knicks into winners.

“We are confident he brings the right combination of expertise and relationships to ensure the long-term success of our franchise,” Dolan said in a prepared statement released to the media.

Leon Rose today with the Knicks
Leon Rose today with the KnicksCorey Sipkin

Look, things can’t get much worse and if anyone knows the league, it’s Rose, who not only had a 25-year career as an agent for CAA, but also coached basketball for five years, three at the high school and two years at the college level. While this is his first job as an executive of a franchise, Rose brings plenty of positives: He’s smart, knows every organization in the league and mingles with really good basketball players.

Rose met with the Knicks coaching staff and players at shoot-around Monday morning ahead of their game against the Rockets at the Garden. Much of what Rose said was kept “in house,” but his core message was essentially “we’re in this together.

While his words may have offered some short-term motivation that resulted in a 125-123 win over D’Antoni’s Rockets, don’t expect any real changes anytime soon, as Rose goes on a fact-finding mission to see exactly what he’s gotten himself into.

“Everybody’s looking forward to continuing to move everything forward — how do we build to get better every day?” Knicks interim head coach Mike Miller said. “We have to give him some time to get in and evaluate things and start moving.”

Miller will be among those being evaluated. Rose has to name a permanent head coach, and Miller continues his audition for the job.

“I don’t need any assurances from anyone as we go through this,” Miller said. “I trust the process and what we’re doing. I’m trying to make the players better and make the team better.”

D’Antoni was the Knicks head coach from 2008-12 and has seen the team go through six head coaches since he left. He supports the hiring of Rose.

“Leon’s great,” D’Antoni said. “He should do a great job. It should benefit the league and everybody else. It’s a great place to play. I enjoyed my four years here. All the luck in the world to him, especially in the East.”

When Rose takes a hard look at the Knicks, he’ll see a team with potential with the right draft picks and acquisitions. There also has to be a change in attitude. Instead of hoping for where the pingpong ball lands, Rose and the Knicks need to make the most of where it does land. It’s OK to chase stars, but the franchise can’t be deflated if they go elsewhere.

“New York is the epicenter of basketball and Madison Square Garden has always been very special to me,” Rose said in a statement. “To be part of the Knicks revitalization and basketball at the Garden is a challenge and rare opportunity.”

It’s not exactly a rare opportunity. But it is his opportunity.

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