My @WojYahooNBA Moment Shows NBA Free Throw Shooting Can Be Fixed

Before Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) became a nationally-known NBA writer with an uncanny ability to announce NBA Draft picks before the teams doing the picking announce them, he covered the New York Knicks as the beat writer for the Bergen Record.  Woj covered them during the ’98-’99 lockout season, the same season that I worked with Knicks’ backup center Chris Dudley on his free throw (FT) shooting.  Chris was notorious for his poor FT shooting and would be interviewed any time he made two in a row in a game.  So it’s no surprise that Chris made national news that season when, after we put in an adjustment the night I saw him miss two against the Bulls on national television, he had a made-FT streak that spanned four games, easily the best of his career.

At that time, “social media” meant having a drink with a reporter, so not many people saw Woj’s article.  I’m posting it below because, with some of the horrible free throw shooting seen in the NBA over the past few seasons, it’s time to get it fixed.

In addition to being able to tell that it was the first time I was ever interviewed (yikes!), you can see what is actually possible as far as fixing bad free throw shooting.  There’s no reason that anyone in the NBA has to shoot less than 70% from the free throw line.  But I can guarantee that if people try to fix it with the same methods that have failed for the past four decades, it’s not going to get any better.  This article, as well as my FT quotes page, shows that I know what I’m talking about.

Thanks to Woj for writing it and thanks to Chris Dudley for being a great client and for the great thing he said to then-mega agent David Falk about me that’s at the end of the article.

Here’s that “Vintage Woj” article from the Bergen Record (no longer on their site, so I can’t just link to it):

EWING FILL-IN HAS PROVEN HE’S NO DUD

June 5, 1999 Section: SPORTS Edition: All Editions Page: S1 The Record ADRIAN WOJNAROWSKI

Chris Dudley was a success story, a fourth-round pick out of the Ivy League, turned over time into a millionaire center. Long ago, this truth was lost in the eyes of fools. They believed the lousy free-throw shooting made him a failure. As soon as he walked to the line for two shots, the anticipation of air balls and bruised backboards had everyone gearing for a good laugh. He was a “SportsCenter” staple, as clich’ed as the stock car crash and the snoozing fan in the stands.

Amazingly, Dudley never let people see his frustration. He just absorbed the humiliation and hustled back on defense, refusing to react to the taunts on his misses and mock cheers on his makes. Still, this sorry saga had to make him the most tortured soul on the floor.

Everyone’s favorite punching bag is expected to be in the starting lineup for the Knicks tonight, replacing Patrick Ewing in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals. He’s a $28 million insurance policy on a Hall of Fame center, an investment paying remarkable dividends in the playoffs. Slowly, there’s a growing appreciation for him, an understanding Dudley doesn’t deserve to be showered with a stooge’s shame.

All along, he never has fit people’s picture of the stereotypical NBA player. He was the third generation of his family to graduate Yale, the grandson of Guilford Dudley, an ambassador to Denmark in the Nixon and Ford administrations. For a man of privilege, Dudley, 33, has stayed a champion of the underdog.

He has committed several hundred thousand dollars to guarantee a college education for a class of 76 fourth-graders in Portland, Ore. As long as the kids get the grades, Dudley funds the free ride. Using his own affliction with the disease as a source of inspiration, he runs a summer basketball camp for children with diabetes.

Despite his struggles with something as silly as shooting free throws, Dudley never let himself become the charity case. Just maybe, his good faith will soon be rewarded.

“I think a lot of comedy writers are going to be getting some work now, because people are going to have to find something else to laugh about it,” Art Rondeau said Friday, just after leaving the practice court at Purchase College with Dudley. Rondeau is a 43-year-old computer consultant out of San Diego who, until last summer when he connected with Dudley, had been searching for a lost cause free-throw shooter to validate the theories bouncing around his brain.

He had worked with a few college players over the years, turning a 59 percent shooter into the Western Athletic Conference free throw champion in 1999. Over time, Dudley has witnessed an endless parade of gurus promising to remedy his 46 percent career free-throw shooting – prescribing everything from underhand tosses to the occult.

One day, Rondeau chased him down at a La Jolla, Calif., health club, preached his philosophies of proper balance and release, and Dudley was so intrigued with the ideas, he was willing to work with this perfect stranger.

“He’s been good for me,” Dudley said. As always, he’s much more comfortable working on his free throw troubles than discussing them. After Dudley missed five of eight to start the season, Rondeau could see on television that Dudley was reverting to his old problems. He called him, shared his thoughts, and soon started the best run of Dudley’s NBA career.

Almost immediately, Dudley connected on nine consecutive free throws. It was a snail’s streak, strung together in mid-March across several games, but it was uncharted territory for Dudley.

“And then he fell on his hip against the Lakers, hurt his hip, and then had a 2-for-12 run,” Rondeau said. “Take that early streak, and the one when he was hurt out of the equation, he’s shooting almost 80 percent for the season.”

Run that explanation by Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy and listen to him laugh. His experience with searching for saviors usually has resulted in the finding of frauds. But, hey, Van Gundy is a Yale dropout, so he’s happy to let Dudley listen to Rondeau’s advice. If Dudley’s comfortable with a computer consultant, it’s all right with Van Gundy.

While understanding Dudley’s shooting percentage has improved little from a season ago – from 44 to 47 percent – Van Gundy agrees his center’s form and frame of mind has. “His shot definitely looks better,” he said. “You haven’t seen streaks of air balls like you used to see. When he does miss, it’s softer now.”

Dudley never has made it to the conference finals as a pro, and wouldn’t it be sweet justice for him to be the starting center in the NBA Finals? Every free throw he takes the rest of these playoffs figures to be the closest watched, most scrutinized of his life. For the first time, maybe Dudley isn’t so alone on the line anymore.

After Game 3 of the Atlanta series, Dudley and Rondeau were standing in the hallway outside the Knicks dressing room. Dudley had the best playoff game of his life, scoring 14 points, grabbing 12 rebounds, prompting super agent David Falk to call out to the hero of the day: “Hey, Chris, what’s happened to you?”

So, Dudley smiled and nodded over to Art Rondeau, saying: “It’s him.” As usual, Dudley was trying to be generous. Just maybe, the computer consultant is right that people will have to get a laugh at someone else’s expense now. Finally, they can rub the silliness out of their eyes and see the truth they were missing all along: Chris Dudley is nobody’s stooge.

An Open Letter to James Dolan

February 11, 2015

Mr. James Dolan
Executive Chairman
Madison Square Garden, L.P.
Two Pennsylvania Plaza
New York, NY 10121

Dear Jim,

You may remember me.  I’m the guy who developed a “super-charged sports ‘psychology’” program that helped Allan Houston become a first-time NBA All-Star while shooting 58% from the floor (54% on 3s) in the 30 games we worked together.  The Knicks won almost 70% of their games whenever Allan was on my program during the 1999-2000 season.

Who said that I did all those great things with Allan Houston?  Well, among others, Allan did in this article written by the NY Post’s Kevin Kernan back in April 2000.  I only have the draft of the article, since the Post never published it.  But Allan is very clear that our work together was highly successful and very important to his career-best year.

However, despite my success with Allan and despite the Knicks being woefully bad for many of the past fourteen seasons, I have never worked with an NBA team again.  Much of that has to do with years of hostile actions taken against me by Allan and the Knicks.

I wrote to you back in December 2003 about all this.  Having seen your recent e-mail to Mr. Bierman, I must admit to a twinge of jealousy that you replied to him yourself because you had Steve Mills reply to me way back when.  But your exchange with Mr. Bierman inspired me to write this open letter, so thanks for that.

What this open letter is mainly concerned with is the Knicks’ history of bad decision-making and some unfortunate events over those past fourteen seasons.  Of course, I’m mostly concerned with why the Knicks and Allan have ruined so many NBA-related opportunities so we can resolve our differences and help the Knicks get back to the playoffs.  But there’s a pattern to all the bad decisions and those unfortunate events that show that there are some very serious problems with how the Knicks’ organization sets its priorities and makes its decisions, causing it to do many of the foolish things that it does.

By the way, some of those bad decisions have forced me to recently file a lawsuit against Allan Houston and the Knicks for Fraud.  They also forced me to more recently file a lawsuit against you, Allan, the Knicks, MSG, and your attorneys for, among other things, trying to deceive the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court.

It’s important that we’re all on the same page as far as the truth about certain events, so I’m going to state facts about a topic and then ask questions based on those facts.  While some of those questions or comments may initially seem to be off-topic, I’ll tie things together for you and for the Knicks fans who read this open letter before I say “Respectfully Yours”.

I.  Your Role in the Organization 

A.  You are not the owner of the Knicks.  The Knicks are owned by MSG, which is a publicly-held company.  You are the Executive Chairman and, as such, answer to the Board of Directors.  Since MSG is a publicly-held company, you have certain legal obligations, to stockholders, for example, that you would not have if you actually owned the Knicks outright.

B.  One of your primary responsibilities as Executive Chairman is to increase “shareholder equity” (the value of the company).  This can be accomplished, among other ways, by winning more games (increasing profits by playing home playoff games, for example) and by reducing expenses.

C.  As part of your sworn testimony in the Anucha Browne Sanders’ sexual harassment lawsuit, you stated “All decisions at the Garden I make on my own.”

D.  When you introduced Phil Jackson as the President of the Knicks in 2014, you stated, in effect, that you know nothing about basketball.  However, you took control of the Knicks sometime in 2000.

Question Set #1:

(QS1a)  If you make all the decisions and you’re supposed to increase shareholder equity, what was the thinking behind paying Allan Houston approximately $100M when the Collective Bargaining Agreement guaranteed that by paying him approximately $72M, you would outbid all your competition?  Did giving Allan the extra $28M make someone believe that he would actually turn into a $100M player?  Why pay retail when you can pay so much more?

(QS1b)  In what ways did the roughly $1B+ spent on free agents and the NBA luxury tax while annually going to the NBA Draft Lottery either help the Knicks win more or increase shareholder equity?

(QS1c)  In what ways has your lack of knowledge about basketball despite making all the decisions since around 2000 been of benefit to the Knicks or increased shareholder equity?

II.  Regarding Jeremy Lin’s Free Agency

E.  The Knicks made at least four (4) very bad business decisions during the Jeremy Lin free agency:

(E1)  You only gave Lin a “qualifying offer” of 1-year at $1M.  This, in essence, gave control of the Knicks’ business dealings to your 29 NBA competitors.  They don’t teach that at Harvard B School.

(E2)  You didn’t give Lin a viable way to show the Knicks the “loyalty” you reportedly felt that he owed you.  Had you offered something along the lines of, for example, 4-years at $4M per season, Lin could have given the Knicks a “home town discount” to stay with the team.  Instead, giving Lin the choice between the Knicks 1-year $1M deal and the Rockets’ 3-year $25M deal, the Harvard graduate chose the latter.

(E3)  You publicly notified everyone that the Knicks would match any offer for Lin.  This alerted rival Houston Rockets’ owner Les Alexander that his initial offer to Lin would need to be restructured into a “poison pill” version so that the Knicks would self-destruct if they matched it.

(E4)  You let an extremely valuable asset (Lin) get away without getting anything in return.

F.  Lin left the Knicks because their bad business decisions essentially forced him to.  Those bad decisions were exploited by outstanding businessman Les Alexander.  According to Rockets’ GM Daryl Morey (in quotes I later confirmed with the Rockets’ head of PR), Lin had nothing to do with the offer being restructured.  He did not ask them to do it, nor did he have any say in the matter.  As Morey told reporters, after the Knicks said they’d match any offer for Lin, Les Alexander told Morey to restructure the offer so the Knicks wouldn’t match it.

G.  Despite all of that, the Knicks then initiated a negative publicity campaign against Lin, falsely accusing him of demanding that the Rockets’ restructure the offer and questioning his “lack of gratitude” to the Knicks.

H.  Although Lin was basically forced into taking the Rockets’ offer because of the Knicks’ mistakes, numerous reports cite people close to you as saying, in essence, that you let Lin go because you “…felt betrayed after the Harvard kid took him [Dolan] to school after the Knicks gave him his big shot.”

I.  If memory serves, despite the very public “Once a Knick, always a Knick” campaign, Jeremy Lin has not received any tribute upon returning to MSG, although players who made significantly less of a contribution to the team have received tributes upon their return to the Garden and “Linsanity” was one of the few bright lights in an otherwise dark decade-and-a-half of Knicks’ futility.

Comment: In answering the questions about the Lin free agency (below), please do not point to his play subsequent to leaving the Knicks to validate the Knicks’ decision to let him go.  As I already wrote in November 2012, the intense scrutiny of Lin post-free agency impacted his results.

Question Set #2:

(QS2a)  In what ways were the ill-fated moves made by the Knicks, prior to Les Alexander having the Rockets restructure their offer, beneficial to either the Knicks or their shareholders?

(QS2b)  In what ways will having publicly declared that you’d match any offer for Lin, reneging on that promise, and then waging a negative PR campaign against him benefit the Knicks in trying to sign big-name free agents this summer and in the years to come?

(QS2c)  Did you really feel betrayed by Lin, despite the fact that the Knicks’ mistakes basically boxed him into a corner?  If so, how did that affect your decisions?

(QS2d)  Since you stated that you make all the decisions, was it your decision to initiate the public character assassination campaign against Lin?

III.  Your Recent Comments Plus MSG Security

J.  A recent NY Post article said that you originally contacted Irving Azoff because you’d heard that he’d placed a live snake in a rival’s mailbox.  You were quoted as saying “That’s a guy I want to get to know.”

Comment: This is something that you might not want to brag about.  To me, it sounds less Machiavellian and more like part of the profile of next week’s “Unsub” on Criminal Minds.  Just a thought.

K.  MSG Security recently threw a man out of a Knicks game because, allegedly, he was drunk and made a rude comment about Carmelo Anthony.  According to published reports, he was arrested as he was ejected from MSG and, the next day, an MSG employee allegedly called this man’s place of business to report the incident, leading to the ejected fan being fired.  He is now suing MSG.

L.  MSG Security recently threw a one-legged man out of the Knicks-Nets game.  Allegedly there is film showing his head hitting the hard floor multiple times as MSG Security carried him out of the arena.  Tragically, he subsequently committed suicide by throwing himself out of a second story window.  His fiancée was quoted as saying that his personality changed dramatically after he hit his head and that he had seemed very depressed since his ejection from the game.

Question Set #3:

(QS3a)  Was MSG Security going about its job in both these matters based on your instructions?

(QS3b)  If not, do you think they might be doing their job in that manner because they think it will please you, perhaps based on things like the “snake in the mailbox” article?

(QS3c)  How many drinks did MSG sell the man who allegedly made the rude comment about Carmelo Anthony before he was thrown out of the Garden for allegedly being drunk?

IV.  Regarding My December 2003 Letter

M.  In addition to telling you about Allan’s success on my program when I wrote to you in December 2003, I also told you:

(M1)  How the Knicks made more money by playing more playoff games because of Allan’s success on my program;

(M2)  How Allan’s agent had turned Allan against me and then prevented the Knicks from hiring me when Don Chaney tried to do so shortly after he became interim Head Coach;

(M3)  How, in October 2003, the Bergen Record’s attorney wrote to me stating that the Knicks’ PR department had provided much or all of the information for a libelous article that the Record published about me;

(M4)  How I was willing to believe that you didn’t know anything about your PR department’s actions and that I wanted us to meet to resolve any past problems and prevent any similar problems from occurring in the future.

N.  You had Steve Mills reply to me, possibly a smart move based on how well your reply to Mr. Bierman has been received.  Mills refused to set up a meeting or do anything else to fix the situation.  I assume that this is because he was instructed not to.

Question Set #4:

(QS4a)  Why would you, in essence, endorse the Knicks’ PR department’s providing the information for a libelous article?  Better yet, why would the Knicks’ PR department provide information for a libelous article in the first place?

(QS4b)  In what ways did allowing Allan’s agent to prevent Coach Chaney from hiring me either cause the Knicks to win more games or increase shareholder equity?

(QS4c)  Have your false comments about me, usually made behind my back but eventually proved to be made by someone Knicks-related, that have cost me so much NBA-related media and business opportunities been made in the same spirit and because of the same ill will that the organization showed Jeremy Lin?

V.  Regarding Allan Houston – Part 1

O.  Allan Houston didn’t show up for his last scheduled session with me.  That was on June 2, 2000, they day of what would end up being the Knicks’ last game of the 2000 NBA playoffs.

P.  As could have been expected, by missing the session, Allan shot badly (5-for-15) and, as that season’s only Knicks All-Star, was rightly blamed in the media for the loss and the Knicks being eliminated from the playoffs.

Q.  It eventually turned out that Allan missed the session so that he wouldn’t have to pay me for the month of June (although he was contractually obligated to do so).  I eventually calculated that the money he “saved” by not paying me was approximately 3/10,000s of 1% of the money he made playing in the NBA.  (A penny saved is a penny earned.)

R.  As I said in my letter from 2003, Allan’s then-agent stopped the Knicks from hiring me when Don Chaney tried to bring me in.  Had I been brought in, I could have helped the other Knicks players shoot well enough to win games while Allan properly rehabbed his knee.

S.  When Allan had to retire because of knee injuries, he was quoted in the media saying, in effect, that he hadn’t rehabbed his knee properly because he played so many minutes trying to save Don Chaney’s job.

T.  Subsequently, Allan’s $100M contract and his inability to play resulted in the NBA amnesty provision, where a team could get rid of a player because of his drain on the team through the luxury tax, being called the “Allan Houston Rule”.

Question Set #5

(QS5a)  Who do you think should be the angriest at Allan for missing his session and helping cause the Knicks playoff ouster by the Pacers?  His Knicks teammates?  The Knicks fans?  Mr. Bierman?

(QS5b)  If the Knicks could pay the few thousand dollars that Allan stiffed me back then to go back in time, make Allan have his session with me, and then have him shoot lights out in game 6 against the Pacers, would they?  If not, why not?

(QS5c)  Did Allan’s bad decision-making regarding that last session, and the fallout from that decision, make him more attractive as an addition to the Knicks’ Basketball Operations department?  If so, how much more?

(QS5d)  How much does Allan having the Allan Houston Rule named after him support Phil Jackson’s apparent belief in karma?

(QS5e)  How much does Allan having to retire because he played too much trying unsuccessfully to save Don Chaney’s job after Chaney’s bid to hire me was scuttled by Allan’s own agent support Phil Jackson’s apparent belief in karma?

(Note to Phil Jackson: Don’t sit too close to Allan…)

(QS5f)  When Don Chaney was eventually fired by the Knicks, he was not told he was fired until he’d already arrived for that night’s game.  Subsequently, MSG Security escorted him out of the Garden.  To your knowledge, did they bounce his head off the hard floor or have him arrested as he was leaving the building?  If not, why not?

(QS5g)  After Chaney, a loyal Knicks’ employee for many years and a man with an excellent reputation as a college and NBA player, was fired in such a manner, many fans and media members publicly said that Chaney had been treated very poorly by the Knicks.  Did anyone within MSG get promoted or receive a bonus because of how Coach Chaney was terminated?  If not, why not?

VI.  Regarding Allan Houston – Part 2

U.  For almost fifteen (15) years, Allan has refused to tell me what is bothering him and/or why he and his associates have ruined so many NBA-related opportunities for me.  (Doing it behind my back seems very cowardly to me.)

V. Since 2009, I have approached the Knicks or their pet beat writers on numerous occasions about helping the team, including prior to the Knicks’ 8-18 finish to the 2008-2009 season; during their then-franchise worse start to the 2009-2010 season; and during the shooting slump that Carmelo Anthony and JR Smith were in during the playoffs a few seasons ago.  I have either been ignored or told that I wasn’t needed.

W. According to Mitch Lawrence, Allan Houston stated to him, after being hired for the Knicks’ front office, that “My job is to make Jim [Dolan] look good.”

Question Set #6

(QS6a)  Who should be the angriest about the Knicks bad decision that prevented me from helping Carmelo and JR out of their shooting slumps the last time the team was in the playoffs?  Carmelo, his teammates, or the Knicks fans?

(QS6b)  In what ways is the Knicks’ preference to continue to lose rather than to bring me in to help the team beneficial to the team or the fans?  How is it increasing shareholder equity?

(QS6c)  How many more years of Allan’s unwillingness to “man up” and tell me what’s bothering him do you think will be required before the Knicks decide that they actually care more about winning than they do about coddling Allan?

(QS6d)  How many more years of Carmelo Anthony’s prime will he and the Knicks have to waste before the Knicks decide that they actually care more about winning than they do about coddling Allan?

(QS6e)  Who should be more upset with that last question?  Carmelo Anthony?  His teammates?  The Knicks fans?  Or Allan Houston (for my implying that he shouldn’t be coddled anymore)?

(QS6f)  Regarding Allan’s “My job is to make Jim [Dolan] look good” comment, how do you think Allan is doing in meeting that job requirement?

VII.  NBA-Related Matters

X.  In the Anucha Browne Sanders matter, Commissioner Stern had to step in after Anucha won the lawsuit and you stated that you were going to appeal.  Apparently, the Commissioner had had enough of the embarrassment that the Knicks brought to the NBA over that matter.

Y.  At that time, Commissioner Stern was quoted as saying about the Knicks “It demonstrates that they’re not a model of intelligent management.”

Z.  After the Knicks fired Head Coach Larry Brown after one season and tried to avoid paying him for the remaining years on his contract, Commissioner Stern arbitrated the matter and you had to pay Brown $18.5M (in addition to what you’d paid him to coach that first season).

AA. NBA agents have stated that they don’t want to represent me because they fear reprisals by the Knicks.

AB. NBA reporters/bloggers have stated that they don’t want to write about my unique program because they fear reprisals by the Knicks.

AC. To re-state, you recently admitted to not knowing anything about basketball, despite “making all the decisions” since around 2000.

AD. Your e-mail to Mr. Bierman became public just as the NBA was about to launch All-Star week, hosted by the Knicks and the Nets, in New York City.

Question Set #7

(QS7a) In what ways is losing $10+M to Anucha Browne Sanders and $18.5M to Larry Brown in very public matters instead of obeying the law to begin with and/or negotiating settlements before things went public beneficial to the Knicks or to shareholder equity?

(QS7b) Since you don’t own the Knicks and you say you know nothing about basketball, who have you considered to replace you on the NBA Board of Governors?

(QS7c) Since you say you know nothing about basketball but make all the decisions, a combination that may have greatly contributed to the almost decade-and-a-half of Knicks’ on-court futility that prompted Mr. Bierman to e-mail you directly in the first place, has the MSG Board of Directors discussed replacing you as Executive Chairman?  If not, why not?

(QS7d) Since agents and reporters won’t deal with me because they are afraid of reprisals from you, would you allow Commissioner Silver to deal with me so that one of the other 29 NBA teams who might like to shoot lights out every night has the chance to do so?  (P.S. to Commissioner Silver: ‘thank you’ in advance)

(QS7e) What will it take for the Knicks to stop interfering with my business?

(QS7f) Would you be willing to have the Knicks stop reprisals against anyone who works with me on NBA-related business or writes about my NBA results?

(QS7g) Was your sending the e-mail to Mr. Bierman so close to the All-Star break your attempt to get the focus off the Nets and their owner, Mikhail Prokhorov, and onto you and the Knicks where it belongs?  If so, “Mission Accomplished”.

VIII.  In Conclusion

You probably have recognized patterns as this letter progressed.  Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), the rogue branch of psychology that I’m trained in (no, I’m not a psychologist) has many tools for identifying why people or organizations make bad decisions and, more importantly, tools to fix it.  I’m not going to “diagnose” any individual here, but I will say something about the Knicks/MSG organization.

There is a mean-spiritedness that permeates many of the organization’s (Knicks, MSG) actions and decisions.  As much as I don’t like this kind of mean-spiritedness, I wouldn’t be able to say much about it if it was causing the Knicks to win.  But it hasn’t.  The team has been a mess for many, many years.

Part of that may be that they’re only being mean in a half-hearted way.  They’re not “Darth Vader Starwars” evil, they’re just “Rick Moranis Spaceballs” evil.  They’re not “Lucifer, Prince of Darkness” evil, they’re just “Dilbert’s ‘Phil, Prince of Insufficient Light’” evil.  Right now, the Knicks are “the NY Knicks of Evil”.  Surely they can do better than that.

But if you want to actually win titles, forget “evil” and “insufficient light” and make decisions based on the types of positive values that successful organizations around the world use.  Stop fighting battles that don’t need to be fought.  Stop the organizational meanness.  Spend more time doing things well and less time trying to stop the media from seeing you do them badly.  Spend the time saved from those worthless battles on things that will improve the organizational culture from top to bottom.  The “body” isn’t healthy if any part of it is “rotten”.

You are to be commended for your recent musical success.  I listened to one of your songs on YouTube and liked it enough that I played it a couple more times.  And regardless of how you became the opening act for The Eagles, it takes a lot of guts to perform in front of crowds that size.  Props to you for all of that.

You obviously have a lot of talents and you’re obviously an intelligent man.  Intelligent men know that one of the signs of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result”.  The Knicks have had pretty much the same poor results for a decade-and-a-half.  It’s time to do things differently and it’s time to do them better.  For your sake, for Mr. Bierman’s sake, and for the sake of all Knicks fans.

Respectfully Yours,

Art Rondeau

@ArtRondeau

Rondeau v. James Dolan, Allan Houston, the NY Knicks, and others

SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK
COUNTY OF NEW YORK
=====================================X
:
ARTHUR E. RONDEAU,                                                      :           Index no. 151239/2015
:            COMPLAINT
Plaintiff,                     :
:
v.                                                         :
:
JAMES DOLAN; ALLAN HOUSTON; NEW                   :
YORK KNICKERBOCKERS, A DIVISION OF                 :
MADISON SQUARE GARDEN, L.P.; MADISON          :
SQUARE GARDEN, L.P.; CYNTHIA ARATO,                :
ESQ.; ALAN MILSTEIN, ESQ.; JAMES                          :
DARROW, ESQ.; SHAPIRO, ARATO &                          :
ISSERLES LLP; and SHERMAN, SILVERSTEIN,        :
KOHL, ROSE, & PODOLSKY, P.A..                                 :
:
Defendants.               :
=====================================X

Plaintiff Arthur E. Rondeau, pro se, respectfully alleges as follows:

PRELIMINARY STATEMENT

  1. This lawsuit arises from false and/or defamatory statements (“the Statements At Issue”) published in Court documents submitted to the Appellate Division – First Department (“the First Department”) by defendants Cynthia Arato, Esq. (“Arato”), Alan Milstein, Esq. (“Milstein”), and/or James Darrow, Esq. (“Darrow”) (collectively “the Respondents’ Counsel” or “Defense Counsel”) on behalf of themselves, their law firms, and their clients – Allan Houston (“Houston”) and the New York Knickerbockers (“the Knicks”) – on or about April 16, 2014. The Statements At Issue were published in the “Statement of Facts” section of Respondents’ Counsels’ “Joint Brief For Defendants-Respondents” (“the Respondents’ Brief”). As will be shown below, Defendants herein knew that the Statements At Issue were false and/or defamatory prior to their publication to the First Department.
  2. Among the Statements At Issue in this instant action are those made by Respondents’ Counsel citing pages in the Record (“the Record”) submitted by Appellant with his Appeal Brief. While these citations make it appear that there is documentary support in the Record for the Statements At Issue, the citations are actually a smoke screen, mentioned in an attempt to dupe the First Department into accepting these unsupported and patently false statements as true.
  3. The remainder of the Statements At Issue are ad hominem attacks on Appellant that falsely and negatively characterize Appellant in ways intended to make him seem unworthy of his legitimate day in Court. These statements and/or characterizations are incorporated into the Respondents’ Brief either in the total absence of citations to the Record or are contained within long sentences which conclude with citations to the Record, but no citations that support the false statements made.
  4. Despite Arato, Milstein, and/or Darrow knowing that the Statements At Issue were false prior to and at the time of their publication in the Respondents’ Brief, they published these statements as facts within the “Statements of Fact” section of the Respondents’ Brief. By knowingly engaging in such duplicity, Arato, Milstein, and/or Darrow have abused any privilege that customarily may be afforded counsel during litigation, and are guilty of Libel and/or Libel Per Se.
  5. In addition, by publishing statements that they knew to be false in the “Statement of Fact” section of the Respondents’ Brief, Arato, Milstein, and/or Darrow are guilty of Misconduct by Attorneys under Judiciary Law § 487 (“Section 487”). As the New York Court of Appeals ruled, in sum and substance, in Amalfitano v. Rosenberg (12 N.Y.3d 8; 903 N.E.2d 265; 874 N.Y.S.2d 868; 2009 NY Slip Op 1069), an attempted deceit by an attorney does not have to actually fool the Court in order for the attorney to have violated Section 487.
  6. Because, as will be shown below, Defendants James Dolan (“Dolan”), Houston, and the Knicks knowingly allowed Respondents’ Counsel to publish false and/or defamatory statements about Rondeau to the First Department, under the Crime-Fraud Statute they have lost their right to be protected by the umbrella of privilege normally afforded litigation counsel and their clients in Court proceedings. As such, they are guilty of Libel and Libel Per Se.
  7. The Statements At Issue in this instant action are but a handful of similarly false statements contained within the Statement of Facts and in other sections of Respondents’ Brief. By limiting the statements addressed herein to only statements contained within the Statement of Facts, Plaintiff allows this Court to evaluate those statements as purported factual assertions, as opposed to argument, hyperbole or craftsmanship, and apply the legal standards applicable to attorney honesty and accuracy in asserting factual statements to the Court.
  8. Accordingly, there are three major questions that this instant action invites this Court to resolve. First, are all of an attorney’s statements within the Statement of Facts required to be true to the best of an attorney’s knowledge? Second, is counsel able to knowingly engage in deceit in the guise of advocacy? Third, do clients enjoy the umbrella of privilege afforded their attorneys in Court proceedings when the clients knowingly use that privilege as a vehicle to make false and defamatory statements against their legal adversary? Plaintiff, and the People of the State of New York, hope that the answer to the first question is “yes” and that the answer to the second and third questions is “no”.
  9. There is, however, no question regarding Arato’s, Milstein’s, and/or Darrow’s obvious Misconduct by Attorneys. They are guilty of committing Misconduct under Section 487.

THE PARTIES

  1. Plaintiff Arthur E. Rondeau was a resident of the State of California and is now a resident of the State of Rhode Island.
  2. Upon information and belief, defendant James Dolan is a resident of the State of New York and is Executive Chairman of Madison Square Garden, L.P., which has a principal place of business at Two Pennsylvania Plaza, New York, New York.
  3. Upon information and belief, defendant Allan Houston is a resident of the State of New York and an employee of defendant New York Knickerbockers.
  4. Upon information and belief, defendant New York Knickerbockers has a principal place of business at Two Pennsylvania Plaza, New York, New York.
  5. Upon information and belief, defendant Madison Square Garden, L.P. is a limited partnership organized and existing under the laws of the State of Delaware with a principal place of business at Two Pennsylvania Plaza, New York, New York.
  6. Upon information and belief, defendant Cynthia Arato, Esq. is a resident of the State of New York and a partner in the law firm of Shapiro, Arato & Isserles LLP with a principal place of business at 500 Fifth Avenue, 40th Floor, New York, New York.
  7. Upon information and belief, defendant Alan Milstein, Esq. is a resident of the State of New Jersey and a partner in the law firm of Sherman, Silverstein, Kohl, Rose & Podolsky, P.A. with a principal place of business at 308 Harper Drive, Suite 200, Moorestown, New Jersey.
  8. Upon information and belief, defendant James Darrow, Esq. is a resident of the State of New York and an Associate at the law firm of Shapiro, Arato & Isserles LLP with a principal place of business at 500 Fifth Avenue, 40th Floor, New York, New York.
  9. Upon information and belief, defendant Shapiro, Arato & Isserles LLP has a principal place of business at 500 Fifth Avenue, 40th Floor, New York, New York.
  10. Upon information and belief, defendant Sherman, Silverstein, Kohl, Rose & Podolsky, P.A. has a principal place of business at 308 Harper Drive, Suite 200, Moorestown, New Jersey.

JURISDICTION AND VENUE

  1. This Court has jurisdiction over this action pursuant to C.P.L.R. §301.
  2. Venue is proper in this county under C.P.L.R. §503(a) and (c) because defendant Madison Square Garden, L.P. has its principal place of business here, as do defendant the New York Knickerbockers, defendant Allan Houston, defendant Cynthia Arato, Esq., defendant James Darrow, and defendant Shapiro, Arato & Isserles LLP.

FACTS RELEVANT TO ALL CLAIMS

  1. Plaintiff Arthur E. Rondeau is primarily an Information Technology (“IT”) consultant who developed a program (“the Free Throw Program”) to help basketball players who shoot free throws poorly shoot them at much higher percentages. To add a mental component to the mostly-physical Free Throw Program, Rondeau studied neuro-linguistic programming (“NLP”), a rogue branch of psychology that allows people to make very fast and very powerful personal improvements. Eventually, Rondeau made modifications to NLP to allow him to help elite athletes quickly break out of slumps and access his/her “mental zone” more frequently (“the Mental Zone Program”).
  2. Rondeau has used the Mental Zone Program successfully with many professional and/or elite amateur athletes in a variety of sports since the mid-1990s. Each of Rondeau’s athlete clients received the benefits from using the Mental Zone Program that Rondeau had promised them.
  3. In or about the summer of 1998, then-Knicks center Chris Dudley (“Dudley”), a notoriously poor free throw shooter, began working with Rondeau and using the Free Throw Program. In or about March 1999, Dudley received national media recognition for having his career-best made-free throw streak while on the Free Throw Program. Dudley, who had entered into an oral contract with Rondeau to provide him with positive recognition in the media once Dudley saw the results that Rondeau had promised him (“the Positive Press Agreement”), immediately fulfilled his obligations under the Positive Press Agreement and gave Rondeau credit for Dudley’s improved performance.
  4. Shortly after Dudley’s career-best streak ended, Rondeau met Defendant Allan Houston after the Knicks played the Los Angeles Lakers in Los Angeles. When Houston learned that Rondeau was the person who had worked with Dudley, he praised Rondeau for Dudley’s improvements. Weeks later, in or about April 1999, Rondeau went to the Knicks’ practice facility in Purchase, NY to work with Dudley. Houston came over to say hello to Rondeau.
  5. Rondeau subsequently learned that Houston, perhaps the best jump shooter on the Knicks at the time, was mired in an eight-game shooting slump and that people were suggesting that he change his shooting form to correct the problem. Rondeau knew that if Houston changed his shooting form, it would cause him significant problems, so Rondeau suggested to Houston that they work together at Houston’s home the next night and told Houston that, using the Mental Zone Program, Houston would likely shoot very well in the next game later that week. Houston agreed to work with Rondeau the night before that next game.
  6. When Rondeau met Houston at his home, Houston, as Dudley had before him, entered into the Positive Press Agreement with Rondeau. After doing the Mental Zone Program work with Rondeau, Houston shot extremely well the next night. However, Houston did not fulfill his commitment under the Positive Press Agreement.
  7. Eventually, the Knicks participated in the 1999 NBA Playoffs, eventually winning three (3) rounds and advancing to the NBA Finals. During an earlier round, after Dudley, normally a bench player, had played an outstanding game, he was asked by NBA player agent David Falk, then considered one of the most powerful men in the NBA, why he was playing so well. Dudley pointed at Rondeau and said “It’s him”, an exchange observed by and written about by Bergen Record reporter Adrian Wojnarowski on or about June 5, 1999.
  8. Based on his results after working with Rondeau during the 1998-1999 NBA season, Houston eventually hired Rondeau to work with him for the following (1999-2000) NBA season, with a stated goal of Rondeau helping Houston shoot well enough to make the first NBA All-Star team of his career. Houston once again committed to Rondeau that he would honor the Positive Press Agreement. Subsequently, Rondeau provided Houston with a contract, as well as documents stating their goals, including Houston making the All-Star team. In order to work with Houston, Rondeau was required to turn down a lucrative IT consulting contract worth between $150K-$180K. However, since Houston played in one of the biggest media markets in the world and had committed to honoring the Positive Press Agreement, Rondeau felt that Houston’s public success on the Mental Zone Program was worth the substantial amount of money that Rondeau lost by working with Houston and turning down the IT consulting contract.
  9. During the season that he worked with Rondeau, Houston was selected to his first NBA All-Star team and set his career-best marks for field goal percentage (“FG%”) and 3-point field goal percentage (“3Pt%”). Although Houston never did fulfill his obligations under the Positive Press Agreement, Houston did give a very positive quote about Rondeau and Rondeau’s part in Houston’s success that season to NY Post Reporter Kevin Kernan (“Kernan”) shortly after the Knicks’ regular season ended in or about mid-April 2000. For reasons not germane to this lawsuit, Kernan’s article was never published by the NY Post but Kernan gave Rondeau a draft of the article in or about April 2000. Houston had also been quoted favorably about Rondeau’s Mental Zone Program in an otherwise libelous article written by Steve Adamek and published by the Bergen Record (“the Libelous Record Article”).
  10. Houston received outstanding results from working with Rondeau. This was known at the time by, among others, Houston, Dudley, then-Knicks Assistant Coach Don Chaney (who tried to hire Rondeau after he became the Knicks’ Head Coach in or about December 2001), other Knicks players, family members of some of the Knicks players, and a number of reporters for different New York-area newspapers who covered the Knicks. Rondeau had delivered his promised results to both Dudley and Houston.
  11. However, Houston had been turned against Rondeau by his agent, among others, and Houston did not live up to his contractual obligations. Although the Positive Press Agreement required Houston to give Rondeau public recognition through the media as soon as he saw the performance improvements that Rondeau promised him, Houston continually gave credit to others and did not say anything positive about Rondeau to any reporter until Kernan approached Houston at Rondeau’s request almost a year after Houston had first worked with Rondeau and long after Houston, having had the best first half-season of his then-seven year NBA career, was selected to the NBA All-Star team. Because Kernan’s article was never published, Houston ultimately never lived up to the Positive Press Agreement, the agreement that was the major reason Rondeau had chosen to work with Houston for less than $35,000 rather than take the IT contract worth between $150K-$180K.
  12. Houston eventually withheld his last payment for Rondeau’s services, knowing at the time that withholding that payment would cause Rondeau to be evicted from his home (Rondeau was evicted later that summer). During the following years, Houston, his associates, and/or the Knicks interfered with numerous NBA-related media and/or business opportunities. After one such business opportunity was interfered with by one of Houston’s associates, in or about summer 2003, Rondeau was forced to live in a borrowed car for a month due, in large part, to the ongoing financial damage which began when Rondeau took the year off from IT consulting to work with Houston and then Houston refused to pay Rondeau all the money that was due him.
  13. During the years following Houston’s betrayal of Rondeau, Rondeau tried many ways to set up a meeting with Houston. In or about December 2003, Rondeau contacted Defendant James Dolan because Rondeau had just learned from the Bergen Record’s attorney that the Knicks’ PR Department had provided most or all of the information for the Libelous Record Article. In the letter to Dolan, Rondeau described Houston’s benefits from the Mental Zone Program; listed financial benefits that the Knicks had received because of Houston’s improved play while working with Rondeau; stated what the Bergen Record’s attorney had disclosed about the Knicks PR Department; and described some of the problems that Houston’s and/or the Knicks’ bad acts had caused Rondeau, including Rondeau being evicted in 2000 and, just months prior to the letter being sent to Dolan, having to live in the car.
  14. In an e-mail that Rondeau subsequently received from then-MSG President Steve Mills (“Mills”), Mills told Rondeau, in sum and substance, that he was replying to Rondeau’s letter for Dolan. Mills refused to do anything to assist Rondeau. Over the next few years, Rondeau tried many ways, unsuccessfully, to meet with Houston and/or the Knicks to stop the ongoing damage that they were causing to his business.
  15. In or about November 2008 through March 2009, a number of events occurred between Rondeau, Houston, and/or the Knicks that eventually became the basis for a lawsuit filed by Rondeau’s then-litigation counsel. This lawsuit – Rondeau v. Houston and the Knicks (Index #650198/2011) (“Rv1”) – was filed in January 2011.
  16. On or about March 25, 2011, Arato, Milstein, and Darrow filed a motion to dismiss Rv1 (“M2D1”).  M2D1 contained numerous untrue, unsupported, malicious and/or libelous statements about Rondeau, including statements that called into question whether Rondeau had actually helped Houston at all. At the time these statements were published, Houston and/or the Knicks knew that these statements were untrue.
  17. Subsequent to these defamatory comments being made by Defense Counsel in M2D1, Rondeau, now acting pro se, filed, inter alia, the First Amended Complaint (“FAC”). The FAC provided new details about Rondeau’s work with Houston which contradicted the libelous statements contained in M2D1. In addition to the additional facts contained in the FAC, Rondeau also submitted exhibits which included, inter alia, a copy of the unpublished Kernan article containing Houston’s positive quotes about Rondeau; a copy of a published mention by Kernan in his “The Insiders” Sunday column in the NY Post; a copy of the Libelous Record Article; and a copy of a fact sheet that Rondeau had put together in or about the summer of 2000 showing Houston’s results on and off the Mental Zone Program during the 1999-2000 NBA season, Houston’s career-bests that he achieved that season, and Houston’s positive quotes to Kernan and in the Libelous Record Article.
  18. Confronted with additional facts and documentation submitted by Rondeau in the FAC, including inclusion of the Kernan article, subsequent court papers filed at the Trial Court by Respondents’ Counsel no longer contained false and/or ad hominem attacks on Rondeau’s character or integrity, or denied the impact that Rondeau’s work had on Houston during the time that they worked together.
  19. Eventually, all causes of action and Plaintiff’s motions in both Rv1 and a second, related lawsuit that he had filed (Rondeau v. the Knicks, Houston, Arato, Milstein, Darrow, and their law firms (Index #151202/2012) (“Rv2”)) were dismissed and Rondeau filed his Brief of Plaintiff-Appellant with the First Department on or about February 24, 2014.
  20. On or about April 16, 2014, Respondents’ Counsel filed Respondents’ Brief with the First Department. Despite knowing since at least the filing of the FAC almost two-and-a-half years earlier that Houston had acknowledged to Kernan that Rondeau and his Mental Zone Program had been instrumental to his exceptional shooting statistics during the 1999-2000 season, Respondents’ Counsel reverted to making damaging, untrue, unsupported, and/or libelous statements against Rondeau similar to those published in M2D1. These statements included false statements about Rondeau’s effectiveness in working with Houston, and ad hominem attacks on Rondeau, falsely claiming that he was taking credit for things that Rondeau actually had not claimed responsibility for, and implying that Rondeau stalked Houston during the very time that Rondeau and Houston worked together.
  21. Of particular concern, Respondents’ Counsel had gone from disparaging Rondeau in the Preliminary Statement of M2D1 to knowingly publishing their false and malicious statements in the Statement of Facts section of Respondents’ Brief and then falsely citing the Record in an attempt to deceive the First Department that the false and malicious statements were true.
  22. Many of the Statements At Issue were actually published on the same page as the 14-point bold capitalized “STATEMENT OF FACTS” heading, ensuring that readers would know, specifically, that Respondents’ Counsel was claiming these false statements were, indeed, “facts”.
  23. Respondents’ Counsel also included a number of their opinions in the Statement of Facts, opinions that are in direct opposition to the facts as stated in the Record.
  24. Perhaps the most troubling of the Statements At Issue is Respondents’ Counsels’ knowing and intentional falsification of a statement in the Record and their subsequent false attribution of the falsified statement to Rondeau (“Statement At Issue #1”). In the Statements of Facts section of Respondents’ Brief, Respondents’ Counsel stated:

“He [Rondeau] threatened to ‘cause great and ongoing damage’ to Houston’s                         legacy if Houston did not respond to Rondeau and ‘fix things quietly.’ (R.100                         (emphasis added)).” (Respondents’ Brief (“RB”) at pg 11).

That statement is quote at odds with the actual text at the page cited by Respondents’ Counsel (page 100 of the Record). The actual text, along with the sentence that proceeds it, reads:

“Among those actions [that Houston had taken which harmed Rondeau and                         Rondeau’s family] are many that are greatly at odds with your reputation as an                         ethical Christian and a great competitor and teammate. Because I have long                         believed that resolving our situation in a more public forum will cause great and                         ongoing damage to that reputation, and because doing that has never been one of                         my objectives, my family and I have dealt with many hardships while I’ve tried to                         contact you in a number of ways.”

  1. That Arato, Milstein, and/or Darrow would doctor a quote, as they obviously did in this instance, and then claim that their doctored version is a fact is both beyond comprehension and a testament to their willingness to libel Rondeau and try to deceive the First Department while doing so. What makes this even more egregious is that Arato was admonished by the Trial Court after she lied during oral argument in response to a question regarding whether a similarly reworked quote was an exact quote or Arato’s interpretation. Arato stated that it was an exact quote. It was not. After Rondeau read the exact quote to the Trial Court, the Court admonished Arato and asked her “Where is the threat language counsel? Where is the threat language?” (the Record at 355-356)
  2. The remaining seven (7) egregious Statements At Issue addressed herein are described in paragraphs 48 through 54 below, with the false statement at issue identified and then followed by an explanation of why the statement is false as a factual matter and, therefore, unfit to be included in the Statement of Facts section of Respondents’ Brief. These statements, individually and collectively, indicate a clear intent by Respondents’ Counsel to mislead the First Department on purportedly factual matters as a means to damage Rondeau’s character and/or credibility both through “big lies” and “by a thousand cuts”.
  3. Statement At Issue #2

In an attempt to undermine Rondeau’s credibility, Respondents’ Counsel falsely stated:

“Despite this brief tenure, Rondeau credits his work for single-handedly getting the                         Knicks into the 1999 NBA Finals, and getting Houston and the Knicks’ coaching                         staff onto All-Star teams in 2000, and advancing the Knicks to the Eastern                         Conference Finals in 2000. (R.365-66, 375-78, 385-86).” (RB at 7-8).

Their statement is false because:

—         Rondeau had previously published a statement to Kernan that Rondeau was not solely

responsible for Houston’s success. Kernan’s article quotes Rondeau as saying:

“He’s [Houston is] the one putting the ball in the basket. It’s his talent, I just know                         some ways to get the most out of his talent.”

—         Nowhere in the Record does Rondeau ever claim to be single-handedly responsible for

getting the Knicks into the 1999 NBA Finals.

—         Nowhere in the Record does Rondeau ever claim to be single-handedly responsible for

getting Houston onto the NBA All-Star team in 2000.

—         Nowhere in the Record does Rondeau ever claim to be single-handedly responsible for

getting the Knicks’ coaching staff onto the All-Star team in 2000.

—         Nowhere in the Record does Rondeau ever claim to be single-handedly responsible for

advancing the Knicks to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2000.

—         The Record is clear on this, yet Respondents’ Counsel knowingly misrepresented the

Record to the First Department, falsely claiming their misrepresentation as fact.

  1. Statement At Issue #3

In an attempt to falsely imply that Rondeau stalked Houston during the very time they             worked together, Respondents’ Counsel falsely stated:

“…Rondeau would travel uninvited for hours, including overnight, to find Houston at                         games or practices. “ (RB at 7).

Their statement is false because:

—         The first of two “overnight travel” references in the Record refers to Rondeau flying

to work with Houston because Houston called and asked him to do so “as a favor”

to Houston.

—         The second of two “overnight travel” references in the Record states that Houston paid

for the trip and that Rondeau flew overnight to meet with Houston at an agreed-to

time the next day. Tellingly, Respondents’ Counsel took this reference from a

section of Plaintiff’s Rv1 Court papers entitled “Defendants’ Distortions of the Factual

Record”.

—         The Record is clear on this, yet Respondents’ Counsel knowingly misrepresented the

Record to the First Department, falsely claiming their misrepresentation as fact.

  1. Statement At Issue #4

In an attempt to undermine Rondeau’s credibility and/or falsely imply that Rondeau stalked

Houston during the very time they worked together, Respondents’ Counsel falsely stated:

“Rondeau even contends that he once ‘was able to do some work’ to improve                         Houston’s play, while sitting uninvited in the stands and ‘without Houston’s                         knowledge or awareness.” (RB at 7).

 

Their statement is false because:

—         The Record states that Houston left a ticket for Rondeau, so Rondeau was not

“uninvited” and, thus, also was not stalking Houston.

—         Nowhere in the Record does it state that Rondeau claimed to do any work with Houston

from his seat in Madison Square Garden.

—         The Record is clear on this, yet Respondents’ Counsel knowingly misrepresented the

Record to the First Department, falsely claiming their misrepresentation as fact.

  1. Statement At Issue #5

Respondents’ Counsel falsely stated:

“…the only difference between the FAC and the Complaint was the addition of nearly                         100 paragraphs regarding Rondeau’s stale dealings with Houston in 1999 and 2000.”                         (RB at 14-15).

Their statement is false because:

—         As stated herein, the FAC also contained a number of exhibits which provided

documentary evidence that contradicted the malicious and defamatory statements

made by Defense Counsel in M2D1.

—         As stated herein, the additional paragraphs in the FAC also provided facts that

contradicted the malicious and defamatory statements made by Defense Counsel in

M2D1.

—         The Record is clear on this, yet Respondents’ Counsel knowingly misrepresented the

Record to the First Department, falsely claiming their misrepresentation as fact.

  1. Statement At Issue #6

In an attempt to minimize the effectiveness of Rondeau’s work with Houston, Respondents’

Counsel falsely stated:

“Rondeau provided his coaching services to Allan Houston – then a shooting guard                         for the Knicks – on and off for just a few months in 1999 and 2000…” (RB at 7).

Their statement is false because:

—         The 1999-2000 NBA regular season ran from November 1999 through mid-April 2000.

—         Contrary to the statement made, Rondeau worked with Houston during each and every

month of that regular season, not “just a few months” as Respondents’ Counsel stated.

—         The Record is clear on this, yet Respondents’ Counsel knowingly misrepresented the

Record to the First Department, falsely claiming their misrepresentation as fact.

  1. Statement At Issue #7

In an attempt to undermine Rondeau’s credibility, Respondents’ Counsel falsely stated:

“According to Rondeau, the ‘loss’ of the first article harmed him because ‘it eliminated                         a significant opportunity for Rondeau to convince the Knicks that he could help them                         end their slump if they hired him.’ (R.400). In other words, Rondeau believes that an                         article about the Knicks decision to not hire him would have convinced the Knicks to                         hire him.” (RB at 13).

Their statement is false because:

—         The Record clearly states that the article that Rondeau was referring to was the

“positive about Rondeau and positive about the Knicks” second article that the NY Post

would not publish in 2009 and not the “positive about Rondeau and negative about the

Knicks” first article that the NY Post would not publish in 2009.

—         Respondents’ Counsel made this same illogical mistake in Rv1 Court papers and

Rondeau corrected them in his Rv1 answering papers, as well.

—         The Record is clear on this, yet Respondents’ Counsel knowingly misrepresented the

Record to the First Department, falsely claiming their misrepresentation as fact.

  1. Statement At Issue #8

In an attempt to tarnish Rondeau’s character, Respondents’ Counsel falsely stated:

“…[Rondeau]…threatened to demand a media watchdog group investigate the Knicks…                         (R.508-09).” (RB at 12).

This statement if false because:

—         Nowhere in the Record does it state the Rondeau would demand a media watchdog

group investigate the Knicks.

—         Not only is Respondents’ Counsels’ statement inaccurate, it is illogical (why would a

media watchdog investigate an NBA basketball team?)

—         Rondeau previously pointed out Respondents’ Counsels’ inaccuracy and illogic

regarding their statement in his Rv1 Court papers.

—         The Record is clear on this, yet Respondents’ Counsel knowingly misrepresented the

Record to the First Department, falsely claiming their misrepresentation as fact.

  1. Upon information and belief, Respondents’ Counsel published the Statements At Issue as facts in the Statement of Facts section of Respondents’ Brief knowing that they were false and in an attempt to deceive the First Department into believing they were true.
  2. Prior to and at the time of publication of the Respondents’ Brief to the First Department, Defendants Dolan, Houston, the Knicks, Arato, Milstein, and Darrow knew that the Statements At Issue were false and/or misleading and/or libelous. As such, they have lost their right to be protected by the umbrella of privilege normally afforded litigation counsel and their clients in Court proceedings and are guilty of Libel and Libel Per Se.
  3. When Arato, Milstein, and/or Darrow knowingly published false and/or misleading and/or libelous statements to the First Department in the Statement of Facts section of Respondents’ Brief, they attempted to deceive the First Department. As such, they are guilty of Misconduct by Attorneys and liable for treble damages for their misconduct.
  4. As stated herein, Dolan has known about the hostile actions taken by his subordinates against Rondeau since at least 2003. Prior to its viewing in Court on or about September 19, 2007, Dolan stated, under oath, in a video deposition that “All decisions at the Garden [MSG] I make on my own.” Browne Sanders v. Madison Square Garden, Isiah Thomas, and James Dolan.
  5. Upon information and belief, a legal strategy that included attempting to deceive the First Department, a serious offense and one with serious consequences, would have to have been approved by Dolan in order for that strategy to be enacted. As such, Dolan is personally liable for Libel and Libel Per Se.
  6. The combined value of the causes of action in Rv1 and Rv2 was $15,550,000. As Rondeau lost his appeal subsequent to the misdeeds of the Defendants herein, this is the figure for damages that Rondeau is using to determine his losses for the Libel and Misconduct by Attorneys causes of action.
  7. Upon information and belief, at all times relevant herein, the Defendants Herein acted with malicious intent towards Rondeau.

FIRST CAUSE OF ACTION Libel (Dolan, Houston, the Knicks, Arato, Milstein, Darrow)

  1. Plaintiff repeats and realleges each and every allegation contained in the preceding paragraphs as if fully set forth herein.
  2. Defendants’ numerous statements in the Respondents’ Brief mischaracterizing Rondeau and/or the false statements fabricated by Defendants and then attributed to Rondeau in an effort to make him appear irrational and/or self-important were false and defamatory with regard to Rondeau and were made with malice aforethought and malicious intent.
  3. Defendants’ numerous statements in the Respondents’ Brief implying that Rondeau stalked Houston were false and defamatory with regard to Rondeau and were made with malice aforethought and malicious intent.
  4. Defendants published their false, defamatory, and unprivileged statements about Rondeau by submitting them to the First Department in the Respondents’ Brief. Defendants published these statements knowing them to be false and in reckless disregard of the truth.
  5. Rondeau has been injured financially as a direct result of defendants’ false and defamatory statements.

SECOND CAUSE OF ACTION Libel per se (Dolan, Houston, the Knicks, Arato, Milstein, Darrow)

  1. Plaintiff repeats and realleges each and every allegation contained in the preceding paragraphs as if fully set forth herein.
  2. Defendants’ false, defamatory, and unprivileged statements regarding Rondeau’s character tended to injure Rondeau in his trade, business, and profession as a sports coach and in his trade, business, and profession as an IT consultant.
  3. Defendants’ disparaging statements implying that Rondeau stalked Houston accused Rondeau of a serious crime. Defendants’ false and disparaging statement that Rondeau “threatened to ‘cause great and ongoing damage’ to Houston’s legacy accused Rondeau of a serious crime.

THIRD CAUSE OF ACTION Misconduct by Attorneys (Arato, Milstein, Darrow)

  1. Plaintiff repeats and realleges each and every allegation contained in the preceding paragraphs as if fully set forth herein.
  2. Defendants’ publication of knowingly false, defamatory, and unprivileged statements regarding Rondeau in the Statement of Facts section of Respondents’ Brief was an attempt to deceive the First Department and deny Rondeau a chance at a fair appeal.
  3. Rondeau has been injured financially as a direct result of defendants’ misconduct.

FOURTH CAUSE OF ACTION Vicarious Liability (the Knicks)

  1. Plaintiff repeats and realleges each and every allegation contained in the preceding paragraphs as if fully set forth herein.
  2. At all times relevant to the conduct described and complained of, Houston was employed by the Knicks.
  3. At all times relevant to the conduct described and complained of, Houston was acting within the scope of his employment by the Knicks.
  4. The Knicks are vicariously liable for each and every cause of action against Houston.

FIFTH CAUSE OF ACTION Vicarious Liability (MSG)

  1. Plaintiff repeats and realleges each and every allegation contained in the preceding paragraphs as if fully set forth herein.
  2. At all times relevant to the conduct described and complained of the Knicks were owned by MSG.
  3. At all times relevant to the conduct described and complained of, Dolan was acting within the scope of his employment by MSG.
  4. MSG is vicariously liable for each and every cause of action against Dolan, Houston, and/or the Knicks.

SIXTH CAUSE OF ACTION Vicarious Liability (SA&I)

  1. Plaintiff repeats and realleges each and every allegation contained in the preceding paragraphs as if fully set forth herein.
  2. At all times relevant to the conduct described and complained of, Arato and/or Darrow were employed by SA&I.
  3. At all times relevant to the conduct described and complained of, Arato and/or Darrow were acting within the scope of her/his employment by SA&I.
  4. SA&I is vicariously liable for each and every cause of action against Arato and Darrow.

SEVENTH CAUSE OF ACTION Vicarious Liability (SSKR&P)

  1. Plaintiff repeats and realleges each and every allegation contained in the preceding paragraphs as if fully set forth herein.
  2. At all times relevant to the conduct described and complained of, Milstein was employed by SSKR&P.
  3. At all times relevant to the conduct described and complained of, Milstein was acting within the scope of his employment by SSKR&P.
  4. SSKR&P is vicariously liable for each and every cause of action against Milstein.

WHEREFORE, Plaintiff Arthur E. Rondeau requests that the Court grant the following relief against defendants:

1) on the First Cause of Action, damages in an amount no less than Fifteen Million,

Five Hundred and Fifty Thousand ($15,550,000) Dollars plus pre-judgment interest

against Dolan, Houston, the Knicks, Arato, Milstein, and Darrow;

2) on the Second Cause of Action, damages in an amount no less than Two Million,

Five Hundred Thousand ($2,500,000) Dollars plus pre-judgment interest against

Dolan, Houston, the Knicks, Arato, Milstein, and Darrow and judgment that

Dolan, Houston, the Knicks, Arato, Milstein, and Darrow libeled Rondeau by

publishing the defamatory characterizations and/or implying that Rondeau stalked

Houston and/or falsely stating that Rondeau threatened to harm Houston’s legacy

and/or minimizing the effectiveness of Rondeau’s work with Houston;

3) on the Third Cause of Action, damages in an amount no less than Fifteen Million,

Five Hundred and Fifty Thousand ($15,550,000) Dollars plus pre-judgment interest

plus treble damages against Arato, Milstein, and Darrow;

4) on the Fourth Cause of Action, the same relief requested from Houston for each the

First and Second Causes of Action with pre-judgment interest against the Knicks;

5) on the Fifth Cause of Action, the same relief requested from Dolan, Houston, and

the Knicks for each the First and Second Causes of Action with pre-judgment

interest against MSG;

6) on the Sixth Cause of Action, the same relief requested from Arato and Darrow for

each the First, Second, and Third Causes of Action with pre-judgment interest

against SA&I;

7) on the Seventh Cause of Action, the same relief requested from Milstein for each the

First, Second, and Third Causes of Action with pre-judgment interest against

SSKR&P;

8) Rondeau’s costs and expenses of this action; and

9) such other, further, and different relief to Rondeau as this Court may deem just

and proper.

Dated: Herndon, Virginia                         February 5, 2015

_/S/ Arthur E. Rondeau___________                                                                                                 Arthur E. Rondeau                                                                                                                                    Plaintiff, pro se

Rondeau v. Allan Houston, the NY Knicks, and others

SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK
COUNTY OF NEW YORK
=====================================X
ARTHUR E. RONDEAU,                                                      :           Index no. 159541/2014
:           COMPLAINT
Plaintiff,                     :           (Amended 01/26/2015)
v.                                                         :
:
ALLAN HOUSTON; NEW YORK                                       :
KNICKERBOCKERS, A DIVISION OF                             :
MADISON SQUARE GARDEN, L.P.; WILLIAM            :
STRICKLAND; and CABLEVISION SYSTEMS              :
CORPORATION.                                                                   :
:
Defendants.                :
=====================================X

Plaintiff Arthur E. Rondeau, pro se, respectfully alleges as follows:

PRELIMINARY STATEMENT

  1. This lawsuit arises from two specific sets of events in a long history of harmful actions taken against Plaintiff Arthur E. Rondeau (“Plaintiff” or “Rondeau”) by Defendants Allan Houston (“Houston”); Houston’s former agent, William Strickland (“Strickland”); and/or the New York Knickerbockers (“the Knicks”). The first set of events (“the First Fraudulent Actions”) began in or about October 2008 and ended in or about March 2009 (“the First Time Period”). The second set of events (“the Bad-Faith Negotiations”) began in or about June 2010 and ended in or about January 2011 (“the Second Time Period”).
  2. During the First Time Period, Rondeau, with the assistance and efforts of his personal attorney Robert Levy (“Levy”), attempted to resolve longstanding issues with Houston, Rondeau’s former client, and with the Knicks. These longstanding issues had begun during the period that Houston received peak performance coaching from Rondeau, from in or about April 1999 through June 2000, and continued thereafter for many years. The harmful actions taken by Houston, Strickland, and/or the Knicks resulted in, among other damage, Rondeau being evicted from his home in or about July 2000, as well as losing numerous NBA-related media and/or business opportunities during the following years. Because the damage done to Rondeau’s business was so severe, Rondeau suspended his marketing efforts until a resolution with Houston and/or the Knicks could be reached. In or about September 2007, Rondeau contacted Levy to assist him in his efforts to resolve his issues with Houston and/or the Knicks and reestablish his business.
  3. The First Fraudulent Actions, which give rise to the first fraud/fraudulent inducement causes of action, occurred after Levy contacted the Knicks on Rondeau’s behalf in or about October 2008. This contact led to discussions regarding a resolution of Rondeau’s issues, discussions which culminated in a meeting in or about late February 2009 between Rondeau, Knicks Senior Vice President of Basketball Operations Glen Grunwald (“Grunwald”) and Knicks Vice President of Basketball Operations Jamie Matthews (“Matthews”) purportedly to discuss possible employment for Rondeau with the Knicks. However, subsequent events, including statements published by the Knicks’ and Houston’s own litigation counsel, revealed that this meeting was not a sincere attempt by Houston and/or the Knicks to resolve their differences with Rondeau and to assist Rondeau in reestablishing his business. Rather, the meeting was merely a carefully orchestrated charade to deceive Rondeau and induce him into foregoing the filing of a lawsuit for breach of contract against Houston and the Knicks (“the ProJo Lawsuit”) based on damaging and untrue statements made by Houston about Rondeau to the Providence Journal (“the ProJo”).
  4. As will also be shown below, because Rondeau had finally engaged counsel in connection with his issues with the Knicks/Houston, the Knicks, Houston, and/or Strickland conspired to, and did, meet with Rondeau and/or his counsel under the false pretense of seeking to resolve Rondeau’s issues, while actually conducting those meetings solely to learn what type of legal action Rondeau might be contemplating such that they induced Rondeau to forego those legal actions by a combination of false promises and/or other delaying tactics engineered to ensure that any such claim(s) were no longer timely and could not be brought timely under the applicable statute(s) of limitation(s).
  5. In particular, as a result of these meetings, the Knicks and Houston learned that Rondeau had a live claim based on statements made to the ProJo by Houston and thereafter continuously held out the false hope that Rondeau’s problems with the Knicks and/or Houston could be imminently resolved until the statute of limitations on the ProJo Lawsuit had run.
  6. Indeed, late in the afternoon on the very day that the statute of limitations on the ProJo Lawsuit expired, all of the purported efforts by Houston and/or the Knicks to resolve Rondeau’s issues with them were abruptly terminated via e-mail.
  7. The Knicks are vicariously liable for the actions of Houston. Cablevision, the owner of the Knicks during the First Time Period, is vicariously liable for the actions of Houston and/or the Knicks.
  8. Also included in this lawsuit is a second set of fraud/fraudulent inducement causes of action based on events which took place during the Bad-Faith Negotiations. These events not only show a pattern of behavior similar to the First Fraudulent Actions but, by themselves, are also actionable. As described in more detail below, during the Second Time Period, a meeting was held between Houston, Knicks General Counsel Marc Schoenfeld (“Schoenfeld”), Rondeau, Levy, and Rondeau’s then-litigation attorney David Bargman (“Bargman”). During this meeting, Schoenfeld committed to providing Bargman with a vetted settlement offer (“the Vetted Offer”) by a certain date. Schoenfeld also notified the group that he had a vacation scheduled for the last week of 2010 and said, in sum and substance, that he wanted nothing to interfere with it.
  9. Multiple extensions were given to Schoenfeld to produce the Vetted Offer and/or to allow Houston’s then-recently hired attorney, Alan Milstein (“Milstein”) to familiarize himself with the facts. In or about early December 2010, Milstein made a settlement offer to Bargman on Houston’s behalf (“the Houston Offer”). Because the Vetted Offer was due shortly afterward – on the Wednesday prior to Schoenfeld’s vacation during the last week of December 2010 – Rondeau told Bargman to inform Milstein that Rondeau would wait to receive the Vetted Offer before beginning negotiations with Milstein.
  10. As will be detailed below, Schoenfeld not only didn’t produce the Vetted Offer as promised, he delayed contacting Bargman to discuss it until he returned from his vacation approximately twelve (12) days later, and then delayed further until late in the afternoon on the day that the tolling agreement (“the Tolling Agreement”) between all the parties expired. Schoenfeld told Bargman at that time that the Knicks would not agree to an extension of the Tolling Agreement. Milstein told Bargman that, since the Knicks would not agree to an extension, neither would he. The Knicks’ fraudulent actions in not delivering the promised Vetted Offer denied Rondeau/Bargman the opportunity to negotiate a settlement with Houston/Milstein based on the Houston Offer and forced the parties into costly litigation weeks later. Therefore, the Knicks are guilty of fraud and/or fraudulent inducement.
  11. Cablevision, as the owner of the Knicks, is guilty of vicarious liability for Houston and the Knicks.
  12. Rondeau had already filed a lawsuit, Rondeau v. Houston and the Knicks (“Rv1”) regarding the events in question in January 2011. Statements made by Houston’s/the Knicks’ litigation counsel in their Court documents (“the Rv1 Motion Papers”) eventually triggered Rondeau’s realization that what took place during the First Time Period was actually an orchestrated charade on the part of Houston, Strickland, and/or the Knicks.
  13. As will be detailed below, Plaintiff did not realize that the First Fraudulent Actions had been an orchestrated charade until two (2) years prior to the date that the Summons and original Complaint for this lawsuit were filed on September 29, 2014. Subsequent to that realization, Plaintiff eventually determined that the events of the Bad-Faith Negotiations were also similar to those of the First Fraudulent Actions and similarly orchestrated.
  14. It was not, however, until or about January 2015 that pro se Plaintiff recognized that the events of the Bad-Faith Negotiations resulted in the loss of something of demonstrable financial value, the Houston Offer, and decided to include the related causes of action in this amended Complaint. As shown below, the value of the Houston Offer was substantially at or above $2.5M.
  15. Although, as described above, the patterns of fraudulent behavior by the Defendants during both the First Time Period and the Second Time Period are obvious, they will be described in more detail below. Plaintiff’s contention that the Knicks and/or Houston never intended to settle and/or resolve their issues with Rondeau will be supported by facts showing that taking hostile actions against Rondeau and then refusing to resolve their issues with him has been the historical norm for Houston and/or the Knicks since in or about the 1998-1999 NBA season.
  16. This lawsuit (“Rv3”) ensued.

THE PARTIES

  1. Plaintiff Arthur E. Rondeau was a resident of the State of California and is now a resident of the State of Rhode Island.
  2. Upon information and belief, defendant New York Knickerbockers is a division of Madison Square Garden, L.P., a limited partnership organized and existing under the laws of the State of Delaware with a principal place of business at Two Pennsylvania Plaza, New York, New York.
  3. Upon information and belief, defendant Allan Houston is a resident of the State of New York and an employee of defendant New York Knickerbockers.
  4. Upon information and belief, defendant William Strickland is a resident of Pennsylvania and an employee of Stealth, SME with a principal place of business at 295 Madison Avenue, New York, New York.
  5. Upon information and belief, defendant Cablevision Systems Corporation (“Cablevision”) is organized and existing under the laws of the State of Delaware with a principal place of business at 1111 Stewart Avenue, Bethpage, New York. During both the First Time Period and the Second Time Period, Cablevision was the owner of the New York Knickerbockers.

JURISDICTION AND VENUE

  1. This Court has jurisdiction over this action pursuant to C.P.L.R. §301.
  2. Venue is proper in this county under C.P.L.R. §503(a) and (c) because defendant the New York Knickerbockers has its principal place of business here, as does defendant Allan Houston, and defendant William Strickland.

FACTS RELEVANT TO ALL CLAIMS

  1. Rondeau is a full-time Information Technology (“IT”) consultant who created a unique and highly-successful program (“the Free Throw Program”) to help basketball players who were chronically-bad free throw shooters shoot at much higher percentages. Through the 1980s and 1990s, Rondeau successfully used the Free Throw Program with numerous high school and college basketball players.
  2. During the early 1990s, Rondeau studied neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), a “rogue” branch of psychology which allows a person to make very fast and very powerful mental improvements. Rondeau customized NLP to work with elite athletes and created a program to help each athlete quickly break out of slumps and/or access his/her “mental zone” on a more consistent basis (“the Mental Zone Program”). During the 1990s, Rondeau successfully helped, among others, a Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) professional tennis player ranked in the 80s in the world defeat a player ranked in the 30s and helped a skier win a World Cup Gold medal in an event that the skier had done so poorly in over the previous year that his coach tried to convince him not to ski in the event as he was getting set in the gate for his Gold medal-winning run. Every athlete that Rondeau worked with achieved the results that they had contracted with Rondeau to provide them.
  3. During the summer of 1998, Rondeau met then-Knicks backup center Chris Dudley (“Dudley”) and they began working together to improve Dudley’s notoriously poor free throw shooting. In or about March 1999, Dudley received national media recognition for his shooting improvements on the Free Throw Program.
  4. Shortly after Dudley’s improvements were documented in the media, Rondeau met defendant Allan Houston, then the starting shooting guard for the Knicks, following the Knicks’ March 28, 1999 game against the Los Angeles Lakers in California. Houston expressed his admiration to Rondeau for Dudley’s improvements on the Free Throw Program.
  5. In or about April 1999, Rondeau spent a few days working with Dudley at the Knicks’ training facility in Purchase, NY. On his first day there, Rondeau was greeted by Houston. The next day, Rondeau discovered that Houston was in an eight-game shooting slump where he was shooting field goals[1] at approximately 38%, well below his career shooting percentage of approximately 44.5% and even below his poor overall shooting percentage for that season, approximately 42%. At that time, Rondeau also heard that many “experts” were trying to get Houston to change his shooting motion to break out of the slump, a “solution” that Rondeau knew would do Houston more harm than good.
  6. Rondeau told Houston about his Mental Zone Program and told Houston that they could work together at Houston’s home, totally leaving his shooting mechanics alone, and that Houston would shoot well during the next game. They scheduled an appointment for the next evening.
  7. When Rondeau arrived at Houston’s home for the appointment, the first thing that he did was explain to Houston what they would do during the session. They then discussed compensation for Rondeau’s work. Rondeau told Houston that, while they could work out monetary arrangements later, he wanted Houston to agree then and there to give Rondeau credit for helping Houston in published media articles once Houston saw the performance improvements that Rondeau had told him he would receive from the Mental Zone Program. Houston agreed to this and a valid oral contract was formed (“the Positive Press Agreement”). This was the same Positive Press Agreement that Dudley had entered into with Rondeau and had already fulfilled after his success on the Free Throw Program. After entering into the Positive Press Agreement with Houston, Rondeau customized the mental exercises to help Houston out of his slump and then led Houston through the exercises. After Rondeau and Houston did some additional work on the Knicks’ practice court at Purchase after the Knicks’ game day “shoot-around” the next morning, Houston told Rondeau he felt great and was “going to go for 30” (points) that night.
  8. That night, Houston scored thirty (30) points as the Knicks beat the Charlotte Hornets by five (5) points (“the Hornets Game”). Houston made 10-of-17 shots (58.8%), an excellent and significantly higher shooting percentage than during his slump. Houston’s play during the Hornets Game was considered so outstanding that it was the “featured” game on his NBA player page for years afterward.
  9. Houston did not honor the Positive Press Agreement after the Hornets Game. At the same time, a Knicks coach who knew that Rondeau had worked with Houston that morning at the Knicks’ practice facility gave a quote to the New York Daily News saying that Houston had shot so well in the Hornets Game because he “stopped listening to the wrong people” (“the False Report”). Rondeau asked Houston who the coach was referring to and Houston said that he had no idea. The False Report made it difficult for Rondeau to insist that Houston honor the Positive Press Agreement during the following days, as it would put Houston publicly in conflict with his coach. Rondeau decided he would wait until the False Report had been forgotten before asking Houston to fulfill the Positive Press Agreement.
  10. As it later turned out, had Houston scored fewer than twenty-five (25) points in the Hornets Game, the Knicks would have lost the Hornets Game and they would not have been in the NBA playoffs that season. Instead, after making the NBA playoffs as the eighth-seed in the Eastern Conference (only eight teams make the playoffs in each of the two conferences), the Knicks eventually advanced to the NBA Finals, losing to the San Antonio Spurs in five (5) games.[2] Houston made “The Shot”, the winning basket as time expired in the deciding game of the Knicks’ first round playoff series against the Miami Heat. Making “The Shot” greatly enhanced Houston’s reputation.
  11. On evidence and belief, Houston was paid a playoff bonus of just under $100K. On evidence and belief, the ten (10) Knicks’ home playoff games that the Knicks played because they participated in the NBA playoffs due, in part, to Houston’s performance in the Hornets Game made the Knicks an extra $1.1M per game in extra profit for a total of $11M.
  12. During the summer of 1999, Houston told Rondeau that he wanted Rondeau to work with him during the upcoming 1999-2000 NBA season. Houston also stated his goal that Rondeau’s Mental Zone Program would help Houston shoot so well that he would be selected to his first NBA All-Star team in his then-six year NBA career. Houston stated to Rondeau, in sum and substance, that he still intended to honor the Positive Press Agreement. This was the deciding factor for Rondeau to work with Houston during the upcoming season because Rondeau would need to turn down an IT consulting contract worth between approximately $150K-$180K to work with Houston. Without Houston’s reassurances that he would honor the Positive Press Agreement, it would have been foolish for Rondeau to agree to work with Houston for the upcoming season as Rondeau would make significantly less money working for Houston.[3] However, with Houston guaranteeing to honor the Positive Press Agreement, Rondeau felt the investment in his sports career was appropriate since Houston was a very prominent athlete on the NBA team in the “media capital of the world” and the positive publicity Rondeau would be receiving would be worth much more than Rondeau was losing by not taking the IT consulting contract. Based on Houston’s assurances, Rondeau decided to take the year off from IT consulting so that he could work with Houston.
  13. In or about September 1999, Rondeau brought a contract to Houston to be used to begin negotiations, as well as a document identifying goals for their work together, including getting Houston selected to his first NBA All-Star team. Houston was a notoriously poor shooter at the beginning of every NBA season, the time when decisions about who would be selected to the All-Star team were made. Houston guaranteed Rondeau that he would pass the contract along to Strickland, his agent, and tell Strickland that completing the contract was a top priority.
  14. Because of problems getting the contract finalized, Houston ended up calling Rondeau just before the end of the Knicks’ pre-season schedule and asking him to come to New York to help Houston improve his shooting “as a favor” to Houston, even though they didn’t have a formal written contract. During the call, Houston reconfirmed that he would honor the Positive Press Agreement. Rondeau flew from San Diego to New York that night, saw Houston play poorly in the Knicks’ last pre-season game the next night, and then stayed in New York to work with Houston for seven (7) of the first eight (8) games on the Knicks’ regular season schedule. On the days that those seven (7) games were played, Rondeau worked with Houston either in person or over the phone in the afternoon prior to Houston’s pre-game nap. A graphic shown during the Knicks broadcast during their sixth game of the season stated that Houston’s stellar shooting during the first five (5) games of that regular season made it the best five-game start to a season by Houston in his then-seven year NBA career.
  15. Rondeau worked with Houston for just over half the regular-season games prior to the NBA All-Star game. Houston’s results on Rondeau’s Mental Zone Program were dramatically better than his results off the program (57% vs. 40% on field goals; 53% vs. 38% on the longer 3-point shots). In or about January 2000, Houston was selected to his first NBA All-Star team. On evidence and belief, Houston earned a $100K bonus for being selected to the All-Star team.
  16. Despite Houston’s great start to the season and his selection to the NBA All-Star team, Houston still had not honored the Positive Press Agreement, despite Rondeau’s continued requests that he do so and Houston’s continued assurances that he would do so.
  17. Although Houston and Rondeau had enjoyed a very friendly relationship prior to Strickland getting involved with negotiations, that relationship was severely damaged once Strickland started advising Houston about working with Rondeau. Despite the fact that he was benefiting greatly by utilizing Rondeau’s services, Houston had become exceedingly hostile to Rondeau since right after Houston had sent the contract to Strickland. Shortly after sending Strickland the contract but before he made the call asking Rondeau to come help him “as a favor”, Houston told Rondeau that the reason that Houston had not sent Rondeau a promised payment for Rondeau’s work prior to the Hornets Game was that Strickland had told Houston that Rondeau was trying to cheat him by requesting that Houston pay for Rondeau’s travel expenses. Although Strickland’s statement was ridiculous, and Strickland eventually agreed with Rondeau that being reimbursed for travel expenses was common in business, Houston was openly hostile to Rondeau for most of the rest of the season and never appeared to trust Rondeau again. However, when asked about it multiple times during the season by Rondeau, Houston continually denied that anything was wrong.
  18. Throughout that NBA season, Strickland and Houston repeatedly gave Rondeau conflicting information in what appeared to be continued efforts to fraudulently induce Rondeau to provide his services to Houston. One example, of many, had Strickland telling Rondeau that Houston would not honor the Positive Press Agreement; Rondeau subsequently contacting Houston and asking him if he intended to honor the Positive Press Agreement; Houston confirming that he was going to honor the Positive Press Agreement; and then Houston giving public credit to people who had nothing to do with his improvements while, at the same time, not honoring the Positive Press Agreement. This cycle repeated itself numerous times from or about November 1999 through after the NBA All-Star game in or about mid-February 2000.
  19. Ultimately, Houston told Rondeau that what he meant when he initially entered into the Positive Press Agreement was that if someone in the media came up to Houston and asked him about Rondeau by name, Houston would say something good about him. Although this was nowhere near the terms that Rondeau and Houston had agreed to and Houston’s delay of approximately nine (9) months in telling Rondeau what he had meant was very detrimental to Rondeau’s business, Rondeau was faced with a “take it or leave it” option by Houston if the Positive Press Agreement was to be honored.
  20. In January 2000, Rondeau flew to New York to meet with New York Post reporter and Knicks beat writer Kevin Kernan (“Kernan”) about having him write an article about Houston’s incredible season and Rondeau’s part in Houston’s success. Kernan indicated his willingness to write the article and have the Post publish it.
  21. At that same meeting, Rondeau told Kernan about the problems he was having with Strickland and how Houston had become hostile to Rondeau. Rondeau also told Kernan about the False Report given to the New York Daily News and about Rondeau’s suspicion that it had been given in an effort to pre-empt any positive comments about Rondeau. Months later, in or about mid-April 2000, the night of the last Knicks regular-season home game, Rondeau had, after a long absence from working with Houston, come to New York and helped Houston break out of a season-ending slump. After the game, Rondeau was waiting for Houston in the seating section of Madison Square Garden reserved by security for family and friends of the players to congregate after the game. Suddenly, Kernan walked out from the tunnel that led to the area where the media had been interviewing the players and coaches, looked into the stands, saw Rondeau and signaled for him to join him. Since Rondeau had not told Kernan that he would be at the game, Rondeau asked Kernan if Houston had told him that Rondeau was there. Kernan said “no” and then said, in sum and substance, that the same Knicks coach had once again made a False Report. Kernan said to Rondeau, in sum and substance, that when he heard the Knicks coach say that Houston shot so well because he stopped listening to the wrong people, Kernan figured that Rondeau must have come out to work with Houston and was probably at the game.
  22. On information and belief, the two False Reports issued by the Knicks coach were intended to prevent Rondeau from receiving credit for Houston’s superior results on Rondeau’s Mental Zone Program.
  23. Although Houston worked with Rondeau for more than 50% of the regular season games prior to the NBA All-Star game, ultimately Houston only worked with Rondeau for thirty (30) of the eighty-two (82) regular season games that season. Still, Houston’s statistics in the games on Rondeau’s Mental Zone Program were high enough that Houston set career-best marks in both field goal percentage (“FG%”) and 3-point percentage (“3Pt%”) that season, marks that were still his best when he retired from the NBA many years later.
  24. In or about April 2000, Kernan wrote an article about Rondeau’s work with Houston. Kernan quoted Houston as saying:

“This has helped me a lot more than I thought. I went through a time when Art             and I didn’t really communicate or talk and I got back with him and it really             helped. My honest feeling is that all you can do is prepare yourself mentally             and physically. The way I look at it, God is going to have His way with you,             but Art has had a lot to do with it…For me to be as successful as I have been             I almost had to shoot…50 percent…so he really had a lot to do with that.”

After performing his due diligence for the article, Kernan wrote about Rondeau’s efforts with Houston before the Hornets Game; stated that Houston’s career-best FG% was “a staggering improvement” from his prior season’s FG%, and wrote:

“Houston is quick to credit the process, where Rondeau instills techniques to make sure             the athlete’s mind and body are in harmony.”[4]

Kernan also wrote that

“Houston emphatically broke out [of an end-of-regular-season slump after a session with             Rondeau], scoring 29 points on 9-for-15 shooting, including hitting four of five from three-             point land in a win over his previous nemesis Detroit.”[5]

This last-mentioned performance against Detroit is the one that Houston had prior to the second False Report being given to the media by the Knicks coach.

  1. In addition to what appears to be attempts by the Knicks to plant false information in the media to dissuade anyone from giving Rondeau credit for Houston’s performance improvements, the Knicks used the media to harm Rondeau’s NBA-related business in at least one other situation during the time that Rondeau worked with Houston. In or about March 2000, Bergen Record reporter and Knicks beat writer Steve Adamek (“Adamek”) published a false and defamatory article blaming Rondeau for a slump that Houston went into for an entire month after he appeared in the NBA All-Star game in February 2000. Adamek violated basic media ethics guidelines by not even attempting to contact Rondeau prior to publication of the article. Had Adamek interviewed Rondeau, he would have discovered that Houston had stopped working with Rondeau immediately before the All-Star game and that the reason that Houston was in the prolonged slump was because he was no longer doing the customized mental exercises from the Mental Zone Program which had helped him to become an NBA All-Star. Years later, when Rondeau contacted the Bergen Record to find out where they had obtained the erroneous information contained in the article, their outside counsel wrote an e-mail to Plaintiff stating that she had learned that all the information came from the Knicks’ Public Relations department (“Knicks PR”). As Knicks PR had never spoken to Rondeau about the work that he was doing with Houston, they were in no position, and should have known that they were in no position, to comment on anything related to Houston and Rondeau’s interactions and/or results. There are other examples of the Knicks interfering with, blocking, and/or pre-empting positive media coverage of Rondeau’s work with Houston and/or Dudley, as well.
  2. On May 15, 2000, Rondeau and Houston worked together to break Houston out of a series-long slump against the Miami Heat. Subsequently, Houston shot over 50% in game six of the series, was the high scorer in that game, and scored the game-winning points that won the game by two points for the Knicks. This win prevented the Heat from eliminating the Knicks from the playoffs.
  3. On June 2, 2000, Houston skipped a scheduled Mental Zone Program session with Rondeau before what turned out to be the Knicks’ final playoff game against the Indiana Pacers. As could be predicted based on prior results that season, missing the session caused Houston to shoot badly (5-for-15 (33%)) and the Knicks were eliminated from the Eastern Conference Finals. Because Houston and Rondeau had not worked together in the month of June, Houston then refused to pay Rondeau his June invoice, despite Houston/Strickland’s insistence that the contract include a 30-day notice clause. Rondeau told Houston that he would be evicted from his home without the payment. Houston laughed at Rondeau and told him he should have gotten a signed contract[6]. Rondeau reminded Houston that he had worked with Houston without a signed contract as a “favor” to Houston but Houston refused to either pay Rondeau what he owed him or to loan him enough money to avoid being evicted. When Rondeau approached Strickland about the issue in the hope that he could get Strickland to somehow intercede before the eviction took place, Strickland refused to help. Rondeau was served with eviction papers in late July 2000 and had to move out of his home shortly thereafter.
  4. In addition to defaming Rondeau to Houston and/or taking other actions which damaged Rondeau’s relationship with Houston, Strickland, among other things:
  5. Refused to meet with Houston and Rondeau together during the 1999-2000 NBA season to repair their relationship, despite numerous requests from Rondeau that he do so;
  6. Interfered with Rondeau’s hiring by the New York Knicks when then-interim Head Coach Don Chaney (“Chaney”) tried to hire Rondeau in or about January 2002. Despite Chaney asking Strickland to call Rondeau so they could resolve their issues so that Rondeau could be hired, Strickland refused to call Rondeau. Approximately two years after Rondeau’s opportunity was interfered with, attorneys that Rondeau hired spoke with Strickland and reported to Rondeau that Strickland told them that he told a senior Knicks executive who was looking into hiring Rondeau at Coach Chaney’s request that Rondeau had done nothing to help Houston;
  7. On information and belief, Strickland interfered with an NBA-related employment opportunity that Rondeau had in or about the summer of 2003. In or about June 2003, Rondeau was contacted by an NBA agent about working with the agent’s client using the Mental Zone Program. Despite numerous communications between Rondeau and the agent that escalated to the point where signing an agreement for Rondeau to work with the agent’s client appeared imminent, suddenly the agent stopped communicating with Rondeau altogether.[7] Eventually, Rondeau learned that just before the agent ceased communications with Rondeau, she had spoken with Strickland about Rondeau’s work with Houston. A few weeks after the opportunity for Rondeau to work with the NBA player was lost, Rondeau was forced to move out of the apartment he had been staying in and lived in a borrowed car for approximately a month.
  8. In addition to withholding the final payment to Rondeau and refusing to fulfill his obligations under the Positive Press Agreement, Houston, among other things, did the following:
  9. Houston gave a false and derogatory comment to a New York Times reporter implying that Rondeau had given Houston bad advice. This comment was published in the Times in 2002. Rondeau had gone to great lengths to get the article set up so that Houston could fulfill the Positive Press Agreement so that Rondeau could proceed with his career but Houston was still unwilling to live up to his obligations.
  10. According to an e-mail received by Rondeau from the Sports Editor of the Providence Journal (“the ProJo Sports Editor”), Houston made negative and untrue comments about Rondeau and his Mental Zone Program to one of their reporters (“the ProJo Reporter”), causing them to scrap a feature article about Rondeau and his work that they were planning to publish.
  11. On information and belief, Houston’s negative and untrue comments caused the ProJo Reporter to avoid reporting on successful Mental Zone Program work, similar to what had been done with Houston, that Rondeau had just completed with a Providence College basketball player, increasing Rondeau’s losses caused by Houston’s untrue comments to the ProJo Reporter to a feature article and a standard-sized article about a top player on the most visible sports team in the State of Rhode Island.[8] On information and belief, a metric used by professional Public Relations firms to put a value on the media opportunities that they generate for their clients would value the two (2) articles that Rondeau lost because of Houston’s comments to be approximately $1.25M.
  12. On information and belief, Houston interfered with a professional relationship that Rondeau had established with an NBA reporter (“the NBA Reporter”) for a national sports publication. After meeting the NBA Reporter at a conference, Rondeau and the NBA Reporter communicated extensively by e-mail. Rondeau had told the NBA Reporter about his work with Houston and provided a copy of the Kernan article and a sheet showing Houston’s results on and off the Mental Zone Program. The NBA Reporter, who covered many of the Boston Celtics games, stopped communicating with Rondeau, including being unwilling to reply to e-mails and/or faxes from Rondeau, immediately after the same Knicks-Celtics game where Houston made the negative and untrue comments to the ProJo Reporter. On information and belief, Houston made the same type of negative and untrue comments to the NBA Reporter that he had made to the ProJo Reporter, thereby ruining Rondeau’s relationship with him.
  13. After Houston’s negative and unjustified quote was published by the NY Times, Rondeau made many unsuccessful attempts to set up a meeting with Houston to resolve their issues. These attempts included calls to Houston, calls and/or letters to Strickland, and sending a letter to Houston’s parents. Rondeau received no response to any of his communications.
  14. In or about July 2003, Rondeau contacted Knicks executive Steve Mills (“Mills”), explained the positive and negative history between Houston, Strickland and/or Rondeau, and requested that Mills intervene to set up a meeting between the parties since Strickland refused to reply to Rondeau. Later that month, Mills replied to Rondeau via e-mail and said, in sum and substance, that the Knicks thought that Rondeau should be dealing with Strickland. This was an illogical response since Rondeau had stated that he was approaching Mills because Strickland refused to engage with him.
  15. In or about December 9, 2003, subsequent to Rondeau learning that the libelous Bergen Record article had been initiated by Knicks PR, Rondeau decided to contact the Knicks again. Because Mills’ reply to Rondeau’s earlier request was nonsensical, Rondeau set a letter via fax to Knicks chief executive James Dolan (“Dolan”). In the letter, Rondeau told Dolan about Houston’s results on Rondeau’s Mental Zone Program; identified between $14.3M and $29.3M in additional profits that the Knicks realized because of Houston’s results on Rondeau’s program; reported about being evicted and about having to live in a car because of Houston’s and/or Strickland’s actions; and stated the facts regarding the Knicks’ instigation of the libelous Bergen Record article. Rondeau expressed that he was assuming that the Knicks’ hostile media action was done without Dolan’s knowledge or authorization and asked Dolan to arrange a meeting.
  16. Shortly thereafter, Rondeau received another e-mail from Mills stating, in sum and substance, that he was replying to Rondeau for Dolan and that Mills had already told Rondeau to work things out with Strickland. This was, once again, an illogical response in that it implied that Strickland was in charge of Knicks PR.
  17. Shortly after Mills’ second response to Rondeau, Rondeau contacted the NBA Commissioner stating that neither the Knicks, Houston, nor Strickland were willing to work with Rondeau on a solution. The NBA’s illogical response, sent by a member of their General Counsel’s office, stated, in sum and substance, that the NBA thought that Rondeau should work things out with the Knicks.
  18. Based on the above, as well as other examples of interference in Rondeau’s NBA-related business and/or media efforts, in or about fall 2004, Rondeau was forced to shut down his marketing efforts and focus on attempting to resolve his issues with the Knicks and Houston. These efforts, taken over the course of a few years, were unsuccessful.
  19. In or about September 2007, Rondeau contacted Levy to have him assist Rondeau in his attempts to resolve his issues with Houston and the Knicks. One step in this process was that Levy contacted Strickland to discuss Rondeau’s situation with him and/or Houston. Based on Levy’s report of that conversation to Rondeau, Strickland was very aware of Rondeau’s need to resolve the situation with Houston, an awareness that impacts the matters in this lawsuit. According to Levy, Strickland had also admitted that a family attorney for Houston’s parents had chastised Strickland for his handling of the situation between Houston and Rondeau.
  20. In or about October 2008, Levy sent a letter to Madison Square Garden General Counsel Lucinda Treat. This letter was responded to by Schoenfeld, who contacted Levy. Over the next few weeks, Levy, Schoenfeld, and Strickland (who was supposedly advising Houston and who Schoenfeld was supposedly contacting separately from Levy) worked to set up a meeting between Rondeau and Houston, who had recently been named as the Knicks’ Special Assistant to the President of Basketball Operations.
  21. Rondeau originally sought to have himself, Levy, Houston, and Strickland attend the meeting but Strickland, according to Schoenfeld, claimed not to be available. So Levy, at Rondeau’s request, asked Schoenfeld to attend the meeting in Strickland’s place. Houston, according to Schoenfeld, insisted that he would only agree to meet with Rondeau alone. As Rondeau had spent more than eight (8) years attempting to meet with Houston, he was forced to take the meeting without having anyone else present to confirm what was said and/or protect Rondeau’s interests.
  22. On information and belief, neither Strickland nor Schoenfeld wanted to attend the meeting between Rondeau and Houston so that a) Rondeau could not bring his own legal counsel, Levy, to the meeting; and, b) so that there would be no witnesses to confirm any commitments that Houston made to Rondeau during the meeting. On information and belief, this was because Houston, Strickland, and/or Schoenfeld wanted no record of what Houston and Rondeau had discussed.
  23. In or about November 2008, Houston and Rondeau met briefly. During that meeting, Houston promised Rondeau that he would help him obtain an NBA-related coaching opportunity when a situation presented itself. Houston never took any action to fulfill that promise.
  24. On information and belief, Houston never intended to fulfill his promise to Rondeau.
  25. Immediately after Rondeau met with Houston, Rondeau and Levy met with Schoenfeld at the Knicks’ headquarters at Pennsylvania Plaza in New York City. At that meeting, Schoenfeld was specifically asked to set up a meeting that would include himself, Rondeau, Levy, and Houston. Although Schoenfeld stated that he would try to do so, no such meeting was ever set up or held. A second request to Schoenfeld to set up such a meeting was made a few weeks later during the First Time Period but the meeting between the four (4) parties never took place, despite the fact that Houston’s office was within a few hundred feet of Schoenfeld’s and despite the fact that Schoenfeld, a senior Knicks executive, could have instructed the relatively-junior Knicks executive Houston to attend a meeting.
  26. At the November 2008 meeting between Schoenfeld, Rondeau, and Levy, Schoenfeld stated, in sum and substance, that the Knicks’ position was that all the difficulties Rondeau had experienced were caused by Houston and that the Knicks were blameless. Rondeau then provided Schoenfeld with a copy of the defamatory article written by Adamek and initiated by Knicks PR to make Schoenfeld aware that the Knicks, too, had taken hostile actions against Rondeau. Rondeau then told Schoenfeld about Houston’s repeated and unfulfilled commitments to comply with the Positive Press Agreement; told Schoenfeld about the ProJo Sports Editor’s e-mail stating that Houston’s comments to the ProJo Reporter had caused them to scrap the feature article they were planning to publish about Rondeau and his work; and told Schoenfeld that Houston had made his comments to the ProJo Reporter during a game in Boston in March 2003. Thus, Schoenfeld had all the information that he needed to determine what type of legal action Rondeau might have against Houston (breach of contract) and/or the Knicks (vicarious liability) and to determine when the statute of limitations would run out. The rest of the meeting consisted of Rondeau and Levy informing Schoenfeld about other damage done by Houston, Strickland, and/or past/present Knicks employees and stating that their goal in contacting the Knicks and meeting with Schoenfeld was to resolve any problems between Rondeau, Houston, and the Knicks so that Rondeau could resume his sports business. Schoenfeld indicated that he understood that Rondeau and Levy were looking for a resolution and, in sum and substance, indicated that this was his goal for the discussions as well.
  27. In or about early January 2009, Schoenfeld indicated to Levy that he thought he could set up a meeting between Rondeau and an as-yet-unnamed executive in the Knicks’ Basketball Operations department. In or about early February 2009, Rondeau sent a letter to Houston asking him to intervene and ensure that the meeting was with a “decision maker” (someone authorized to make a hiring decision) in Basketball Operations. Houston never replied to Rondeau’s letter. Rondeau also sent an electronic copy of the letter to Schoenfeld to ensure that Houston saw the letter. Schoenfeld never acknowledged receipt of the letter, although Schoenfeld had received and replied to other e-mails sent to that same e-mail address.
  28. With no word from Schoenfeld into the middle of January 2009, Levy followed up with Schoenfeld and told him that there was a new urgency to the matter as Rondeau’s IT contract had just been terminated and the economic conditions were such that there were few contracts to be found (Rondeau subsequently worked approximately ten weeks throughout all of 2009). Later in January 2009, Schoenfeld indicated to Levy that he could arrange the meeting for Rondeau but that it would have to take place after the NBA trading deadline had passed in mid-to-late February 2009. Despite Rondeau’s precarious financial situation, which Schoenfeld was aware of, and the fact that the trade deadline was over a month away and the meeting between Rondeau and the Basketball Operations executive could have easily happened in January, Schoenfeld, on information and belief, decided to push the meeting out as far as possible to run down the statute of limitations on the ProJo Lawsuit.
  29. On February 25, 2009, Rondeau met with Grunwald and Matthews in Grunwald’s office. The meeting lasted for approximately an hour and twenty-five minutes. Grunwald appeared very enthusiastic about what Rondeau told him about his work with Houston and what Rondeau could do for the then-current Knicks team. Grunwald told Rondeau he was going to speak to the Knicks then-Head Coach, Mike D’Antoni (“D’Antoni”), that evening about hiring Rondeau and that Grunwald would contact Rondeau within the next day or two. Rondeau told Grunwald that he would send him the contact information for a recent satisfied client of Rondeau’s via e-mail. Grunwald indicated that he thought Rondeau would be returning to speak with D’Antoni. Grunwald’s enthusiasm and statements made Rondeau decide to extend his stay in Manhattan for a few days so that he would be available on whatever day Grunwald was able to arrange for him to meet with D’Antoni.
  30. Despite his enthusiasm and his promise to contact Rondeau within the next day or two, Grunwald did not do so, nor did he reply to Rondeau’s e-mail with the contact information for Rondeau’s other client. Subsequently, Rondeau returned to Charlotte, NC, where he had previously been consulting, to wait for Grunwald’s response.
  31. Because Rondeau hadn’t received any response from Grunwald as of March 2, 2009, on March 3, 2009, Levy sent Schoenfeld an e-mail asking if Schoenfeld had received any feedback from Grunwald or Matthews. Schoenfeld replied ten (10) minutes later and said that he had gotten feedback and would contact Levy the next morning. When Schoenfeld did not contact Levy the next morning, Levy sent him a follow-up e-mail shortly after lunch on March 4, 2009 asking if they could schedule a time to talk that afternoon. At 3:09 pm on the afternoon of March 4, 2009, Rondeau received an e-mail from Grunwald stating “…your program does not fit with the direction our organization is moving. As a result there just isn’t an opportunity for you to work with the Knicks.” Eight minutes later, at 3:17 pm, Levy received an e-mail from Schoenfeld stating, among other things “I think there is no question that we have given Art more than a fair shake here…”.
  32. Although nothing had been done that resolved Rondeau’s issues with the Knicks or Houston, Schoenfeld’s e-mail terminated all efforts on the Knicks’ part to resolve those issues and/or mitigate the ongoing damage that Houston’s and/or the Knicks’ prior actions had done to Rondeau. Levy told Rondeau, in sum and substance, that he was shocked by Schoenfeld’s e-mail and decision to terminate efforts to resolve the situation with Rondeau. There had never been any indication from Schoenfeld, prior to his March 4, 2009 e-mail to Levy, that he considered the meeting between Rondeau and Grunwald an “all or nothing” attempt at resolution. Anything short of Rondeau working with a professional sports team and Houston giving Rondeau the public recognition in the media that he had been contractually obligated to give to Rondeau for almost a decade meant that Rondeau had made no progress at all in resolving the problems that had ruined his business and had wasted valuable time and money while engaged in fruitless negotiations with Houston and/or the Knicks. There were other easy ways to fix things[9] once and for all, but Rondeau and Levy were never able to present alternatives because Schoenfeld shut down all further discussion.
  33. Since Grunwald and Rondeau met on February 25, 2009 and Grunwald was going to speak with D’Antoni right away and get back to Rondeau in a day or two, there was no reason apparent at that time for Grunwald to delay sending his final e-mail to Rondeau until late afternoon on March 4, 2009. However, Schoenfeld’s obviously coordinated e-mail to Levy, sent just eight minutes after Grunwald sent his to Rondeau, eventually provided Rondeau with the first clue that led Rondeau to understand that the First Fraudulent Actions had been orchestrated to defraud Rondeau and led to the filing of this Rv3 Complaint. The date of Grunwald’s and Schoenfeld’s coordinated e-mails was March 4, 2009, the date that the statute of limitation on the ProJo Lawsuit expired. On September 28, 2012, subsequent to Rondeau’s new understanding of the First Fraudulent Actions, he confirmed that Grunwald’s e-mail and Schoenfeld’s e-mail had been sent on the afternoon that the ProJo Lawsuit’s statute of limitations had expired.
  34. At all times during the First Time Period, up until the time that Schoenfeld sent his final e-mail to Levy, the impression that Schoenfeld gave to both Levy and Rondeau was that Schoenfeld was working toward resolving the situation with Rondeau.
  35. Also, at all times during the First Time Period, the impression that Schoenfeld gave Rondeau and Levy was that Schoenfeld understood the significance of the work that Rondeau had done with Houston.
  36. On information and belief – and based in part on the Bad-Faith Negotiations and/or statements from The Rv1 Motion Papers, which will be described below – Schoenfeld, Houston, and/or Strickland orchestrated the First Fraudulent Actions not to resolve Rondeau’s problems caused by Houston and/or the Knicks, as Schoenfeld had led Rondeau and Levy to believe, but in order to protect Houston and the Knicks from the ProJo Lawsuit.
  37. At all times during the First Fraudulent Actions, subsequent to Rondeau’s meeting with Houston and Rondeau/Levy’s meeting with Schoenfeld immediately afterward, Rondeau relied on the promises made by Houston, Schoenfeld’s statements, e-mails, and/or actions to purportedly resolve Rondeau’s issues with Houston and/or the Knicks, and statements and/or actions made by other Knicks employees. That reliance manifested itself in Rondeau/Levy not taking action to either request a tolling agreement for the ProJo Lawsuit, because negotiations were going so well that it was decided not to bring possible litigation into the discussion, and in Rondeau/Levy not filing the ProJo Lawsuit before the statute of limitations had run out, because the fruitful negotiations were not abruptly terminated until less than two (2) hours before the statute of limitations in the ProJo Lawsuit had run out.[10] [11]
  38. Among the statements in the Rv1 Motion Papers that support Plaintiff’s contention that the Knicks, Houston, and/or Strickland orchestrated the First Fraudulent Actions are, in sum and substance:
  39. Numerous statements refuting that Plaintiff helped Houston at all and/or questioning Plaintiff’s sanity for thinking that he had helped Houston (despite Houston having published his positive quotes to Kernan when Kernan was researching and writing his aforementioned article);
  40. Numerous statements refuting that employment was a possible outcome of Plaintiff’s meeting with Grunwald and/or ridiculing Plaintiff for thinking that he could work for the Knicks, even if a job was available;
  41. Numerous statements claiming that Houston made no promises to Rondeau at their November 2008 meeting, a bizarre contention when seen through the glass of Rondeau having spent many years and many thousands of dollars in order to get the meeting with Houston to resolve their issues and allow Rondeau to resume his business. Houston’s promises would have been witnessed by others had Houston not insisted that he would only meet with Rondeau with no others present;
  42. The characterizations of Plaintiff in The Rv1 Motion Papers are certainly not characterizations of a person whom any company would actually be looking to hire. Consequently, that means that there was no actual opportunity for Plaintiff to work with the Knicks, despite the impression given to both Rondeau and Levy that such an opportunity truly existed. Yet at all times during the First Fraudulent Actions, Schoenfeld and/or Houston gave all outward appearances that they respected Plaintiff and his Mental Zone Program and that they were both willing and able to resolve the continuing damage that they had, individually and jointly, done to Plaintiff’s business. Plaintiff was not the only one who interpreted Houston’s and/or Schoenfeld’s actions as sincere. Levy did, as well.
  43. On information and belief, these outward appearances were given by Houston and/or Schoenfeld in an effort to perpetrate a fraud on Plaintiff.
  44. In or about June 4, 2010, Bargman, Rondeau’s litigation counsel, sent a demand letter to Houston. Copies were also sent to Schoenfeld, Houston’s then-agent Steve Kauffman (“Kauffman”), Levy, and then-President of Madison Square Garden Corporation Scott O’Neil. The demand letter gave Houston and the Knicks a deadline for contacting Bargman and, should they contact him wishing to discuss the matter, a deadline for making substantial progress toward resolution. This last clause was added, in part, because of Rondeau and Levy’s experience during the First Time Period.
  45. Shortly after the demand letter was sent, Kauffman contacted Bargman. According to Bargman, Kauffman stated, in sum and substance, that he wanted to attempt to resolve things between Houston and Rondeau but, because of his schedule over the summer, he would not be able to meet until he came to New York from California in September 2010. Rondeau knew that Kauffman had an outstanding reputation for integrity and, therefore, was willing to wait until September if it meant that Kauffman would make himself available for discussions regarding resolution. As a result of this, the parties entered into the Tolling Agreement to allow Rondeau to preserve his rights while waiting for the September meeting with Kauffman to take place.
  46. As Bargman discovered when he contacted Kauffman in or about late August 2010 to finalize the date and time of the September meeting, Houston had changed agents just a few days after the Tolling Agreement was signed in or about early July 2010 and, as a result, Kauffman would not be attending any meetings. But neither Houston nor Schoenfeld ever notified Rondeau or Bargman that Kauffman would no longer be attending settlement discussions, so Rondeau’s willingness to be flexible and delay settlement discussions to ensure Kauffman was involved in them was a wasted effort. An extension of the Tolling Agreement was negotiated in order to accommodate Houston’s and Schoenfeld’s request to meet in early November 2010.
  47. On or about November 2, 2010, Rondeau, Levy, and Bargman met with Houston and Schoenfeld in the Knicks’ offices at Two Pennsylvania Plaza, New York, NY. Towards the end of the meeting, Schoenfeld, in response to a request from Bargman, stated, in sum and substance, that the Knicks would provide a vetted offer of settlement (already approved by someone in Knicks’ executive management with authority to do so) (“the Vetted Offer”) before the end of November. Schoenfeld made a point of telling everyone that he had scheduled a week’s vacation for the end of December and, in sum and substance, that he wanted everything finished between the parties prior to his leaving for that vacation. As a result of Schoenfeld’s commitment to provide the Vetted Offer to Bargman in or about late November 2010, the Tolling Agreement was, a few days later, extended once again at Schoenfeld’s request.
  48. Sometime before the extension to the Tolling Agreement expired at the end of November 2010, Schoenfeld again requested an extension, this time until or about mid-December 2010. Although Schoenfeld had promised to have the Vetted Offer to Bargman prior to the end of November 2010, in an e-mail summary of his conversation with Schoenfeld, Bargman wrote that Schoenfeld had stated that he could not have “anything substantive” by the time Schoenfeld and Bargman were scheduled to talk by phone on December 3, 2010. According to Bargman, Schoenfeld stated during that December 3, 2010 phone call that “it is [in] no one’s interest to end negotiations”. In response to Bargman’s question about how much longer it would take to get the Vetted Offer, Bargman said that Schoenfeld stated that he “…did not want it to drag into the holidays and was confident that he would have a substantive response by…Friday [December 10, 2010]”.
  49. On December 9, 2010, Bargman informed Rondeau and Levy via e-mail that Schoenfeld had pushed their scheduled call the next day from 2 pm to 3 pm because he needed to speak to Milstein, who had just started to represent Houston in the matter. Prior to that point, Houston had not even engaged counsel, although he had received the demand letter in early June. The Tolling Agreement was extended yet again, this time into early January 2011, at Schoenfeld’s request.
  50. In or about mid-December 2010, a preliminary offer of settlement (“the Houston Offer”) had been sent to Bargman by Milstein on Houston’s behalf. According to Bargman, the Houston Offer consisted of a non-disparagement agreement, the positive media recognition that Houston had agreed to provide Rondeau in the Positive Press Agreement in or about 1999, and a sum of money in the $10K-$15K range.[12] As Rondeau and Bargman were still waiting for Schoenfeld to deliver the Vetted Offer that he had guaranteed that the Knicks would provide, Rondeau told Bargman to contact Milstein and tell him that Rondeau was going to wait to receive the Vetted Offer before negotiating with Milstein.
  51. On Friday, December 17, 2010 Bargman summarized a conference call he had with Schoenfeld in an e-mail to Rondeau. Bargman stated that Schoenfeld had guaranteed Bargman that he would call Bargman on Wednesday, December 22, 2010 and provide Bargman with the Vetted Offer.
  52. On Wednesday, December 22, 2010, the day that Schoenfeld was supposed to provide the Vetted Offer to Bargman, Schoenfeld sent an e-mail to Bargman, Rondeau, and Levy, among others, and stated that he had a “family issue” that required him to leave the office before he could speak with Bargman. Schoenfeld also stated that he had not, as of yet, had all the conversations that he needed to have regarding the Vetted Offer, this despite the fact that, had the purported family issue not arisen, Schoenfeld was committed to providing the Vetted Offer to Bargman that very day.
  53. Purportedly, Schoenfeld’s “family issue” kept him out of the office on Thursday and Friday of that week, as well. When Bargman had not heard from Schoenfeld by Wednesday, December 29, 2010, Rondeau had Bargman contact Schoenfeld by phone. That afternoon, Bargman reported back to Rondeau via e-mail and stated that Schoenfeld was on vacation that week and that Bargman had left a voicemail for Schoenfeld asking him to call Bargman upon his return. This was the same vacation that Schoenfeld had made a point to mention during the November 2010 conference and that Schoenfeld had said that he wanted all negotiations concluded prior to that vacation beginning. At the time that Bargman discovered that Schoenfeld was away on vacation, the committed-to Vetted Offer had not been provided as scheduled nor had the date that Schoenfeld would deliver it been renegotiated.
  54. Schoenfeld did not contact Bargman upon his return from his vacation on Monday, January 3, 2011. At Rondeau’s request, Bargman left voicemails for Schoenfeld on that Monday, as well as the next day. Bargman needed to hear back from Schoenfeld right away, as the Tolling Agreement would expire that Friday, January 7, 2011, and Rondeau needed Bargman to get the Vetted Offer from the Knicks and negotiate his first request for an extension to the Tolling Agreement so that Rondeau, Bargman, and Levy could evaluate the Houston Offer and the Vetted Offer together and begin negotiations with Houston/Milstein and/or the Knicks.
  55. Late morning on Tuesday, January 4, 2011, Bargman received an e-mail from Schoenfeld stating, in its entirety: “Right now I don’t have authority to get back to you one way or another. I am pushing internally.” Given that Schoenfeld had been authorized to communicate with Bargman since the prior June and had promised to provide the Vetted Offer to Bargman before his “family issue” and vacation took him out of the office for twelve (12) days, this message seemed like a stalling tactic. With Rondeau’s approval, Bargman sent Schoenfeld an e-mail with a proposed extension of the Tolling Agreement that would move its date into late January. Bargman and Schoenfeld had no further contact until the end of the week.
  56. Late in the afternoon on Friday, January 7, 2011, the day that the Tolling Agreement expired, Bargman contacted Rondeau by e-mail and stated “Marc [Schoenfeld] just turned us down flat. No extension of tolling agreement.”. Bargman then contacted Milstein about extending the Tolling Agreement and, according to Bargman, Milstein said that since the Knicks wouldn’t sign an extension, neither would he.
  57. The Bad-Faith Negotiations concluded with Schoenfeld reneging on his promise to provide the Vetted Offer to Bargman. Had Schoenfeld kept his promise and done so in a timely manner, even to deliver a Vetted Offer of “nothing”, Bargman and Rondeau could have negotiated with Milstein and Houston. Despite Schoenfeld having stated earlier during the Bad-Faith Negotiations that “it is [in] no one’s interest to end negotiations”, the Knicks did just that and did it in a manner that denied Rondeau the opportunity to negotiate with Houston and which triggered years of litigation between the parties.
  58. On information and belief, Schoenfeld knew prior to the final negotiated date to provide the Vetted Offer, Wednesday, December 22, 2010, that the Knicks would not offer Rondeau anything and that offering nothing would likely trigger litigation by Rondeau/Bargman. Not wanting his vacation plans upset because he had to be involved in drafting Court documents, Schoenfeld fraudulently pretended that the Vetted Offer would still arrive.
  59. On information and belief, the reason that the Knicks would not extend the Tolling Agreement to allow Rondeau/Bargman to negotiate with Houston/Milstein is that it has been Knicks’ policy since at least 2003 that they would not resolve their issues with Rondeau.
  60. In terminating the Bad-Faith Negotiations in such a deceitful manner, the Knicks and/or Houston provided a blueprint against which the First Fraudulent Actions can be compared. In both the First Fraudulent Actions and the Bad-Faith Negotiations:
  61. Houston initially indicated that he was amenable to resolving his issues with Rondeau;
  62. Schoenfeld indicated throughout that he was working toward a solution that would                         work for Rondeau, Houston, and the Knicks;
  63. Schoenfeld continued to delay, depleting Rondeau’s resources;
  64. Schoenfeld, finally, ignored his commitments and terminated communications;
  65. Houston reneged on his offers of settlement and/or resolution.
  66. Between the hostile actions taken by Houston, Strickland, and/or the Knicks towards Rondeau and his business over the years and Houston’s, Strickland’s and/or the Knicks refusal to work toward resolution with Rondeau, except during the First Fraudulent Actions and the Bad-Faith Negotiations, from 1999 through the Second Time Period, as well as during the Rv1 litigatio, it is obvious that together or separately, Houston, Strickland, and/or the Knicks have long been committed to destroying Rondeau’s business. Even The Rv1 Motion Papers confirm this. The First Fraudulent Actions and the Bad-Faith Negotiations stand out in their similarities and in their underhanded methods.
  67. Although the events during the First Time Period were already addressed in Rv1, it was not possible for Plaintiff to know at the time that Rv1 was filed that those events, identified as the First Fraudulent Actions herein, were a carefully orchestrated charade. It was only after examining Defendants’ litigation counsels’ statements contained in the Rv1 Motion Papers in a new light, combined with the subsequent realization that the Grunwald and Schoenfeld coordinated e-mails were sent late on the date the ProJo Lawsuit’s statute of limitations expired, that Plaintiff believed that the events during the First Time Period were not what Plaintiff and Levy thought they were. And it was only after comparing the newly-suspect First Fraudulent Actions against the events which took place during the Bad-Faith Negotiations to realize that there was support for Plaintiff’s contention that Defendants’ actions during the First Time Period were, in fact, fraudulent.
  68. In addition, it was not until the Bad-Faith Negotiations were compared to the First Fraudulent Actions, just prior to filing Rv3 in late September 2014, and then the metric for determining the value of newspaper articles, which Plaintiff was unaware of at the time that Rv1 was filed, that Plaintiff recognized that the Houston Offer had been extremely valuable and, as such, the fraudulent actions which prevented Rondeau from receiving the benefits of the Houston Offer were actionable.
  69. Upon information and belief, at all times relevant herein, the Defendants Herein acted with malicious intent towards Rondeau.

FIRST CAUSE OF ACTION Fraud/Fraudulent Inducement (Houston, the Knicks, Strickland)

  1. Plaintiff repeats and realleges each and every allegation contained in the preceding paragraphs as if fully set forth herein.
  2. Defendants’ actions toward Plaintiff during the First Fraudulent Actions show a clear attempt to perpetrate a fraud on Plaintiff and/or to induce Plaintiff to act in a manner harmful to his best interests to Defendants’ advantage. Defendants took these actions specifically to harm Plaintiff and benefit at Plaintiff’s expense.
  3. Plaintiff has been injured financially as a direct result of Defendants’ fraudulent actions.

SECOND CAUSE OF ACTION Fraud/Fraudulent Inducement (the Knicks)

  1. Plaintiff repeats and realleges each and every allegation contained in the preceding paragraphs as if fully set forth herein.
  2. Defendant’s actions toward Plaintiff during the Bad-Faith Negotiations show a clear attempt to perpetrate a fraud on Plaintiff and/or to induce Plaintiff to act in a manner harmful to his best interests to Defendants’ advantage. Defendant took these actions specifically to harm Plaintiff and benefit at Plaintiff’s expense.
  3. Plaintiff has been injured financially as a direct result of Defendant’s fraudulent actions.

THIRD CAUSE OF ACTION Vicarious Liability (the Knicks)

  1. Plaintiff repeats and realleges each and every allegation contained in the preceding paragraphs as if fully set forth herein.
  2. At all times relevant to the conduct described and complained of, Houston was employed by the Knicks.
  3. At all times relevant to the conduct described and complained of, Houston was acting within the scope of his employment with the Knicks.
  4. The Knicks are vicariously liable for each and every cause of action against Houston.

FOURTH CAUSE OF ACTION Vicarious Liability (Cablevision)

  1. Plaintiff repeats and realleges each and every allegation contained in the preceding paragraphs as if fully set forth herein.
  2. At all times relevant to the conduct described and complained of, Houston was employed by the Knicks.
  3. At all times relevant to the conduct described and complained of, the Knicks were owned by Cablevision.
  4. Cablevision is vicariously liable for each and every cause of action against Houston and/or the Knicks.

WHEREFORE, Plaintiff Arthur E. Rondeau requests that the Court grant the following relief against defendants:

1) on the First Cause of Action, damages in an amount no less than Two Million,

Five Hundred Thousand ($2,500,000) Dollars plus pre-judgment interest against

the Knicks, Houston, and Strickland;

2) on the Second Cause of Action, damages in an amount no less than Two Million,

Five Hundred Thousand ($2,500,000) Dollars plus pre-judgment interest

against the Knicks;

3) on the Third Cause of Action, the same relief requested for the First Cause of

Action against Houston with pre-judgment interest against the Knicks;

4) on the Fourth Cause of Action, the same relief requested for the First Cause of

Action against Houston and/or the Knicks, plus the same relief requested for the

Second Cause of action against the Knicks, with pre-judgment interest against

Cablevision;

5) Rondeau’s costs and expenses of this action; and

6) such other, further, and different relief to Rondeau as this Court may deem just

and proper.

 

 

Dated: Herndon, Virginia                         January 26, 2015

_/S/ Arthur E. Rondeau___________                                                                                                 Arthur E. Rondeau                                                                                                                                                                                               Plaintiff, pro se

[1] Free throws are shots taken from behind a line 15-feet in front of the basket. The game clock is turned off and the shooter is not covered by a defender. A made free throw is worth 1 point. Field goals are shots taken from anywhere on the court with the game clock turned on. The shooter may or may not be covered by a defender. 3-point field goals are a type of field goal taken from behind a line approximately 22 feet away from the basket and, if the shot is made, worth 3 points instead of the normal 2 points that a field goal is worth.

[2] The Knicks finished in eighth (8th) place in the Eastern Conference standings and the Hornets finished in ninth (9th) place, behind the Knicks by one (1) game. The top eight (8) teams in each conference go to the playoffs. Had the Knicks lost the Hornets Game, they would have tied for eighth (8th) place with the Hornets at the end of the regular season. The first NBA “tie-breaker” to determine playoff position is how the teams did against each other during the regular season. A Knicks loss in the Hornets Game would have meant that the Hornets would have beaten the Knicks two (2) games to one (1) during the regular season and the Hornets would have won the tie-breaker and advanced to the NBA playoffs while the Knicks’ season would have been over.

[3] Ultimately, Houston paid Rondeau approximately $33K plus some expenses. Rondeau’s “opportunity cost” to work with Houston was, based on the IT contract that Rondeau turned down, between approximately $117K-$147K. Only the knowledge that Houston would honor the Positive Press Agreement made taking that type of financial loss a positive, business-building opportunity.

[4] Kernan’s article was never published and no public record, except for copies of the draft of the article entered into evidence in Rv1 and/or Rv2, of Houston’s rousing endorsement of his results on Rondeau’s program exists. This has allowed Houston, the Knicks, Strickland, and/or others to subsequently interfere with Rondeau’s NBA-related media and/or business opportunities, as well as defame him in the Rv1 Motion Papers. Since Kernan’s article was never published, it did not satisfy Houston’s obligation under the Positive Press Agreement.

 

[5] Houston had played for the Detroit Pistons before joining the Knicks and, prior to working with Rondeau, shot poorly whenever the Knicks played the Pistons. During the 1999-2000 season, Houston shot 10-for-13 (77%), 9-for-15 (60%), and 9-for-15 (60%) in the three (3) Knicks-Pistons games that Rondeau worked with him and shot 5-for-16 (31%) in the one (1) Knicks-Pistons game that he did not work with Rondeau.

[6] Rondeau and Houston had a contract that was not signed because Strickland refused to make final changes to it. However, Rondeau provided services under the terms of the contract and Houston made payments to Rondeau under the terms of the contract (until the withheld June payment). Attorneys that Rondeau consulted at the time and since have said that the contract was legally binding.

[7] An ongoing pattern that harmed Rondeau’s NBA-related media and/or business opportunities has been that, subsequent to receiving a copy of Houston’s statistics and quotes, whomever Rondeau has been communicating with immediately terminates all communication with him. The example above is one of the few times that Rondeau has been able to identify one of the Defendants actually having spoken to Rondeau’s business/media contact prior to communications being terminated.

[8] The ProJo Sports Editor’s e-mail to Rondeau stated, in answer to a question posed by Rondeau about why his work with the Providence College player wasn’t covered by the newspaper, that he had not heard that Rondeau had worked with the player. Rondeau had personally told the ProJo Reporter that he had completed the successful work when he saw her at a girls’ high school tournament game shortly after the date that Houston would have spoken to her. On information and belief, she did not report about Rondeau’s successful work because of Houston’s negative and untrue comments.

[9] Two examples of many which the Knicks could have explored were having Rondeau work with the New York Rangers, which Cablevision, who owned the Knicks at the time, also owned, and/or having Rondeau work with the Rangers’ top minor league hockey team, located, as was Rondeau, in Charlotte, NC.

[10] Although Plaintiff stated in Rv1 that he did not pursue a tolling agreement for the ProJo Lawsuit nor file the suit itself because of his reliance on Houston’s promise, Plaintiff actually relied on the promises, statements and/or actions of Houston, Schoenfeld, and/or other Knicks employees while deciding to forego the ProJo Lawsuit but only identified Houston in Rv1 because the orchestration of the First Fraudulent Actions had not yet become apparent and the Rv1 fraud claim focused on the meeting with Houston. At discovery for this new matter, Plaintiff can produce documentary evidence to support his contention that he relied not only on Houston’s promises but on the promises, statements and/or actions of Schoenfeld and/or other Knicks’ employees when deciding to forego filing the ProJo Lawsuit.

[11] Although Plaintiff estimated the value of the articles that the ProJo decided not to run about him and/or his work after Houston’s negative and untrue comments to be approximately $1.25M, the value of the ProJo Lawsuit needs to be doubled to include the Knicks’ vicarious liability, bringing the estimated total of the ProJo Lawsuit to $2.5M, plus interest, subsequent to final calculations at trial.

[12] Although the amount of cash cited in the Houston Offer was relatively small, the value of the positive media recognition that Houston offered was significant. On information and belief, using the same metric identified in determining the value of the lost ProJo articles, a metric that Rondeau was not aware of at that time, the value of the positive media recognition in the Houston Offer was in excess of $2.5M.

Knicks Fans Need Hardboiled Attitude at MSG

The NY Knicks lost a tough game against the Utah Jazz on Friday night. It was a disappointing loss that dropped the team to 2-8 and extended their losing streak to 7 games. Although some media “pundits” are shouting down Head Coach Derek Fisher’s efforts to find some rays of light in the darkness that so much losing tends to create, Fisher is absolutely correct to be taking the approach he’s taking. I wrote about the Knicks needing to embrace this attitude during the playoffs a few seasons ago and I believe that they need to continue to embrace this attitude now. I’ll explain briefly why that is and then tell you how Knicks fans that will be at their 1 pm game against the Denver Nuggets at MSG today can actually help them win what would, under other conditions, be considered an easily winnable game.

Friday night, the Knicks came back a couple of times when they were far behind. Sure, fans would like to see them lead from the opening tip until the final buzzer but they’re not at that point in their “triangle” evolution right now (is that “triangulation”?). So coming back at all, never mind multiple times, is a very big deal. Only a game or two before, people were upset because the team seemed to be throwing in the towel when they got behind. So making it a game against the Jazz, and actually tying the score with under 3 seconds left, is definite progress.

On top of that, remember that they were without Amar’e Stoudemire by design and then without starter Iman Shumpert seconds into the game by accident. They could have mailed it in at that point. Instead they hung in; Melo played lights out; and Pablo Prigioni, a point guard who is “pass first” almost to a fault, scored 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting and hit two very big 3s and a huge “keep hustling until the play is over” layup along the way.

Right now, while the Knicks are learning a new system under a new coach, they are like babies who are learning to walk. How many of you have kids? How many of you WERE kids? When babies are learning to walk, they bump around a lot and when they finally stand up, they wobble like Weebles who WILL fall down. Yet we praise them, we encourage them, and then one day they’re motoring around on their own two feet. We don’t yell at them for the early mistakes. If we did, and if our parents did that to us, we’d have a society of people who slither because they never learned to walk (your lawyer joke goes here…).

Now, how can the fans at MSG help the team today? Don’t wait for the Knicks to do something that makes you cheer. Instead, cheer them early and you’ll soon find that they give you something to cheer about. Think of the team like an egg, MSG like the pan, and the fans like the water. If you put a raw egg into a pan of cold water, nothing happens. But if the water boils, the egg starts to cook. So, too, will the Knicks if you bring the Garden to a rolling boil early on.

Why do you pour cold water on an egg after you remove it from the boiling water? Because once it starts to cook, it’ll keep on cooking on its own. The cold water stops that. So, too, will booing if things aren’t going as well as you’d like.

I’ve kept track of the Knicks since working with Chris Dudley and Allan Houston and have seen many examples of how the Garden crowd can help them turn things around. Unfortunately, the crowd normally waits for something to cheer about. But when that “something” comes, the fans make a very real difference. During the ’00-’01 season (if memory serves), there was a game at the Garden where the Knicks were just stinking up the joint. Play was sloppy and the team was way behind. The Knicks threw up a garbage shot and the other team grabbed the rebound and started the fast break. But the guard dribbled the ball off his leg and it started going out of bounds. Allan tripped trying to get to the ball and slid about 10 feet but managed to grab it and while staying inbounds. While sitting on the floor, Allan saw Larry Johnson all by himself under the Knicks’ basket and threw a bounce pass (one that bounced a few times, actually) to LJ. The crowd was already cheering Allan’s “seat of his pants” save and then went wild as LJ stuffed the ball home. The Knicks started to play like a team inspired, the crowd stayed with them, and the Knicks ultimately pulled out the win.

This whole “cheering” first idea gets into “vibrational energy”. Trust me, Phil Jackson knows about this. So do Kevin Love’s Uncle Mike and his cousins (the Beach Boys). They released their Good Vibrations album in 1967. Almost 50 years later, Knicks fans need to release their own “good vibrations” today at the Garden. We don’t need any Knicks players “hanging ten”, we just need them to play harmoniously, keep their energy high, and play their best basketball. Knicks fans have more to do with this than they may currently imagine.

Teams don’t turn things around easily when they’re not only learning new things but dealing with adversity. They need an assist. If you’ve got a ticket to today’s game, you have the right to sit back and wait for the Knicks to entertain you. But if you want to go home with that “we just won a game” feeling, you’ll cheer early and often and help hardboil the Knicks into victors.

For Knicks, Orange is the New Blech

An announcement made by the NBA toward the end of the 2014 Summer League most likely means that the New York Knicks will go into Wednesday night’s 2014-15 regular season opener against the Chicago Bulls having already lost at least six regular season games. That announcement, reported by ESPN NY’s Ian Begley, stated that the Knicks “will wear their orange alternate jerseys again…” this season. The announcement was made by Christopher Arena, the NBA Vice President of Identity, Outfitting and Equipment.

These are the same orange jerseys that the Knicks wore to an underwhelming 0-6 record last season. Including last Christmas’ orange uniform, the Knicks were 0-7 when dressed not as Dr. Julius but as Orange Julius. The alternate orange jerseys were thought to be “cursed” by many who watched the Knicks’ failed attempts to win at least one game decked out in orange.

Why am I writing something like this so early in the season, particularly at a time when fans look forward to a new system under a new head coach and a new President? Because I’m hoping to keep the damage limited to 0-6. According to an article written by Bleacher Report’s Dan Favale last season, alternate uniforms can be worn no less than six times and no more than eighteen times. And according to a Tweet from Ian in answer to my question the other day, the NBA hasn’t announced how many times the Knicks will wear the alternate uniforms. By writing about the possible 0-6 hole that orange uni losses could put the Knicks into, I’m trying to prevent up to an additional 0-12 from being “added” to their record.

According to an article by Ben Golliver in Sports Illustrated, the Knicks’ announcement of Phil Jackson’s hiring, the first year President is “in charge of all basketball decisions.” But as you’ll see below, the alternate orange uniforms impact the ability of the team to play the game. So, in this case, the decision to wear the alternate orange uniforms is a basketball decision, albeit one made by the league and not by Jackson. In a season where, despite installing a Triangle offense that’s known to be difficult to learn, the expectation is to make the NBA Playoffs, knowing you could lose six games because of your wardrobe could be unsettling. Knowing you could lose eighteen games because of your wardrobe could make the playoffs seem like an unattainable goal.

If this orange uniform rant seems familiar to you, it’s because I’ve written about the topic before. Those times, however, it was because of the Knicks Marketing department’s attempts at an “Orange Out” by giving orange t-shirts to fans at home playoff games, a decision that, if successful, could have significantly harmed the Knicks’ shooting percentages. Not only does Jackson need to get the league to agree to keep the number of times the alternate jerseys are worn at the minimum six, he also has to get his own Marketing department to stop with the orange giveaways.

There are two main reasons that the alternate orange jerseys should never have been reauthorized for this season: they interfere with players during the game and many people think they’re cursed. Here’s why those reasons are so important:

Orange uniforms interfere with execution. Uniform color can have a detrimental effect on a player’s ability to play the game. For example, there are studies which show that in some sports, referees call more fouls against teams wearing black uniforms than they do against teams wearing other colors. Not the case here but something that the Brooklyn Nets should have considered before going with an all-black road uniform.

The reason that an “Orange Out”, where fans wear orange t-shirts given to them by the team at the game, is bad is that Knicks’ orange is very close to the color of the rim. Accurately determining the distance to the basket is vital to the shooter making his shot. If he either has trouble determining distance because the rim blends into the orange t-shirt background or the extra time it takes to determine the distance messes up his timing, it will result in a miss. An orange rim in front of orange t-shirts is not a smart thing for a team to do to itself.

As far as the impact of an orange uniform on the Knicks’ floor performance, remember too that the ball is an orange-ish brown and the lanes at Madison Square Garden are dark orange, too. Just a momentary delay in determining distance or speed because the ball is blending in with the lane or the other players is enough to cause a turnover on offense or a momentary lapse on defense.

Other examples of colors impacting performance can be found in professional tennis and Major League Baseball. For decades, pro tennis players were only allowed to wear all white clothing and they played with a white tennis ball. Imagine how difficult it could be to pick up a 100 mph serve of a white tennis ball when it blends into the server’s all-white tennis outfit. Pro tennis went to the fluorescent green ball decades ago so that players could more readily see the ball and determine its speed and distance.

As far as MLB is concerned, when Red Sox right fielder Tony Conigliaro made a miraculous comeback after being hit in the face by a fastball during the 1967 season (the injury that prompted MLB to add ear flaps to the batting helmet), he found that he couldn’t pick up the ball when it was in front of a group of center field bleacher seats. To fix the problem so Conigliaro could hit better, the Red Sox blocked off the seats and covered them with a black tarp to make the ball stand out more. They called this blocked off section “Conig’s Corner”.

People think these particular uniforms are cursed. Are they? Who knows? But if the players believe the uniforms are cursed, they might as well be cursed. Because wearing the uniforms will be a distraction and negatively impact their performance. I previously wrote about some negative “team beliefs” from when I worked with Allan Houston during the 1999-00 season and how changing those negative beliefs to positive beliefs improved his performance.

In addition, the Knicks have hired a mindfulness trainer. Mindfulness will help them focus and stay in the present moment when they could be easily distracted. I was recently interviewed for an article about the benefits of the Knicks taking the training and my opinion is that it will be beneficial to the Knicks. But mindfulness is somewhat wasted if the distractions that you’re tuning out are distractions that you’re consciously inflicting on yourself. It’s like putting on gloves so you don’t hurt your knuckles when you hit yourself in the head over and over. The better thing to do is to stop hitting yourself. Or, in this case, never wear these particular orange uniforms again. Because even those players who don’t believe that the orange uniforms are cursed will end up thinking about it when the reporters ask them if they’re thinking about the curse when they wear those oh-fer alternates.

While it seems inevitable that the Knicks will be stuck in the orange alternate uniforms for at least six games this season, they should never have had to wear them again after last year’s horrible results. That was a poor decision by the NBA. But if the Knicks are supposed to wear these orange monstrosities more than six times, Phil Jackson needs to flex his muscles and get the extra games changed back to their regular uniforms. If he wants to do something esthetically pleasing, he get convince Knicks Marketing to focus on the “blue” portion of the orange and blue team colors and let the Rangers wear the orange. When the orange-colored unis cover well-padded hockey-playing Rangers, they can face off against the Killer Tomatoes and probably pick up Minute Maid as a sponsor. The Knicks, on the other hand, will be able to concentrate of learning their new system and making the playoffs again, something best accomplished by limiting self-inflicted wounds.

Breaking Down Knicks’ Breakdowns

It’s been a very strange season for the New York Knicks. Despite last year’s 54-win season, one that saw the Knicks win a playoff series for the first time since the 2000 NBA playoffs, the Knicks became a weak team in a very weak Eastern Conference. Although “guarantees” that this year’s team would win the NBA Championship or, at least, make it to that final round, seemed a bit overstated early on, no one, except ESPN’s Kevin Pelton and the SCHOENE projections, would have guessed that the Knicks would not even make this season’s playoffs. SCHOENE projected 37.5 wins this year and the Knicks can only hit 37 if they win their last two games. Outraged as many were at the lowball figure that SCHOENE projected, 37.5 wins now seems like SCHOENE was an optimist.

Games are lost for many reasons and certainly injuries played a part in some of them. But many of the losses were due to mistakes. Mistakes can be corrected, if you know why the mistake happened. Knowing “why” leads to proper solutions. There are three major types of mistakes and I’ll explain a bit about them here. That’ll help come up with the correct solutions so the Knicks don’t lose next season the same ways they did this season.

The three main types of mistakes are “mental”, “physical”, and “hybrid”. “Hybrid” is my term and, as you’ll see, is actually the cause of most mistakes.

Mental Mistakes

A mental mistake is made because of simple mental oversight. These oversights include things like a lack of focus and being unaware of the current status of the game. Knicks fans saw this happen a few times this season: JR Smith and Andrea Bargnani each launched shots at the end of games where the situation called for the ball to be held. Fortunately, Bargnani’s mistake only forced another overtime, one where the Knicks prevailed. But in a more perfect world, Bargs would have held the ball and the Knicks would have won the game earlier.

We also saw this type of mental oversight when Carmelo Anthony brought the ball up slowly at the end of the Knicks 1-point loss to the Wizards in mid-December. Unaware that there were only a few seconds left, Melo was forced to heave a desperation shot as the clock ran out. There was plenty of time to get a good shot. Melo’s error was compounded by the fact that the Knicks had a timeout and would have been well-advised to take it to set up the proper play.

Two more examples of mental mistakes: losing to tonight’s opponent because you’re focused on the team you’re playing tomorrow night. And, of course, there’s calling timeout when you have no timeouts left (I’m looking at you, Chris Webber…).

Focusing on the opponent at hand and knowing the current game situation eliminates these types of errors. For more on this, see my article on the Psychology of Focus. It’s got some juicy tidbits from last year’s Knicks flameout in the playoffs that you may find interesting.

Physical Mistakes

A pure physical mistake is one where an athlete does something unsuccessful purely because of physical forces. This happens a lot less than you would think, as you’ll see later in this article.

J.R. Smith, for example, has not learned that the momentum in his body transfers to the ball. So he often shoots after spinning around and the ball spins the same way out of the rim. Or he’ll fall away from the basket and then the ball falls short. Compare that to when J.R. catches, goes up straight, and shoots and you’ll see exactly why his spinning/falling away shots are physical errors.

Another physical mistake would be missing a free throw because your shooting arm had been hit during the foul and you didn’t realize that the muscle had tightened up. Ideally, free throw shooters would take a practice free throw without the ball (like a baseball player in the on deck circle) so that he both stretches out and is able to determine if anything hurts. If it does hurt, he can adjust before the first real free throw. Most times, however, the shooter realizes the problem as he’s missing the first free throw and then adjusts so that he can hit the second free throw.

“Hybrid” Mistakes

These are, by far, the most prevalent type of mistakes. They are physical mistakes that are caused for mental reasons. As with all or most teams, the majority of Knicks mistakes are hybrids.

Look at their typically dismal showings in 3rd quarters. This is something that’s been happening for years. It’s actually something that Allan Houston and I successfully addressed when I worked with him during the ’99-’00 season. Since I don’t have firsthand experience with this year’s team, let me tell you what happened back then. The Knicks were terrible in the second game of back-to-backs (also a hybrid error) and Latrell Sprewell’s first game back to Golden State was going to be the second game of a back-to-back (B2B). I knew that Latrell would be so pumped up that he might break the backboard with a layup. Allan and I discussed the fact that Allan was going to have to carry the scoring burden that night. The tabloids all said that the Knicks believed that they would lose the second game of a B2B, so we did a process to ensure that Allan believed he would play well in the second games as well.

I traveled to Oakland on game day, back in pre-historic times when you couldn’t read the newspaper on your phone. When I got there, I got to watch Allan work his magic. He was the high scorer for the game and shot well in the 1st, 2nd, and 4th quarters. However, he was 0-for-5 in the 3rd. After the game, I asked him what had happened in the 3rd and he mentioned that the Knicks weren’t playing well in 3rd quarters. As it turned out, the tabloids all had that bit of news on their back pages but I hadn’t seen it because of traveling. Allan and I did the belief change process again, this time regarding his ability to shoot in 3rd quarters. The game after we did the work, Allan went 3-for-5 to start the second half.

Another type of hybrid mistake is when a player does something uncharacteristic, like dribbling a ball off his leg, at crunch time. Sometimes, it’s a simple mental mistake. But other times, you’ll read something after the fact like “we knew we couldn’t beat them”. The physical mistake is made in order to make the belief come true. Barring working with someone like myself who knows how to install positive beliefs, often the only way that the belief gets changed is because of an “accident”.

When I coached women’s softball, my team was dominant against a certain team during the regular season but, for reasons unknown, couldn’t beat them in the playoffs or the tournaments. These were double-elimination events and we’d often have beaten the team 5-or-6 times in the regular season and then lose to them twice in the post-season. About four years into this bad streak, our power hitter lofted an easy fly ball with a runner on first, our team down by one run, and two outs in the last inning. Our shoulders slumped as we watched the ball head towards the outfielder. As it turned out, the groundskeeper hadn’t pushed the sprinkler into the ground far enough and the outfielder tripped on it. The easy out became a two-run homer and we won the game. For the next few years after that, we never lost to that team in the playoffs or tournament again.

Two other major hybrid mistakes were noticeable with this year’s Knicks. The first has to do with Coach Mike Woodson and his in-game decision making. To me, he seemed to be much more hesitant this year than last year and did not coach at the level that he’s shown himself to be capable of. Often that kind of hesitation comes from having conflicts that need to be resolved in making the decision. For example, if the smart coaching move is to take a player out of the game but the people in power (owner, front office, CAA?) have pushed to have the player get major minutes, it causes what would have been a quick decision to become painfully slow and, perhaps, to be made for the wrong reasons. Based on news reports, I’ve got to believe that this type of thing caused problems for Woodson. He may not be a perfect coach but he’s certainly better than his performance this year shows him to be.

The other major hybrid mistake is making decisions based on emotions rather than logic. The problem is that we all do this from time-to-time (just look at commercials if you want a bunch of examples). Over the past couple of years, the Knicks have had a lot of examples of this. The most recent one bears mention: during the April 4 loss to the Washington Wizards, Carmelo Anthony’s shooting arm went numb from the shoulder down. Yet Melo stayed in the game, made only 5-of-14 shots (35.7%), could barely pass the ball (your joke goes here) and some of his teammates didn’t know he was injured. Whether Melo didn’t tell Woodson until after the game or Woodson knew but didn’t tell the rest of the team isn’t known. But Melo without a shooting arm is not a better shooter than a lesser offensive player with a good arm. Staying in the game and shooting that many shots was a poor decision and one based on emotion. Drawing up a play for Melo to shoot or pass when he could do neither was a pretty bad hybrid mistake as well.

But it didn’t stop there. Melo decided that, dead arm and all, he was playing against the Heat two nights later. He went 4-for-17 (23.5%), so taking that many shots when he had no chance of making them wasn’t a good idea. He wasn’t “Carmelo”, he was barely “Carm”. Needless to say, the Knicks lost by 11.

When you consider that the Knicks will miss the playoffs by one or two games, you realize how costly those emotional decisions were. The missed shots were “physical” but being in the game at all and then taking so many shots was “mental”. So their last gasp efforts at securing the 8th spot were undone because of “hybrid” mistakes.

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