February 11, 2015
Mr. James Dolan
Madison Square Garden, L.P.
Two Pennsylvania Plaza
New York, NY 10121
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.
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