Leon Rose has spent years as one of the NBA’s most powerful agents.
Now he will try to turn around one of its weakest franchises.
The New York Knicks hired Rose as their president on Monday, hoping he can sign and draft the kind of dominant players he’s been representing.
Rose is taking over a team headed toward its seventh straight season out of the playoffs. But teams such as the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Lakers have found success handing their basketball operations to an agent and the Knicks believe he can do the same.
“Leon is one of the most respected executives in professional basketball, with decades of experience successfully working with NBA players and team management in all facets of the game,” Madison Square Garden executive chairman James Dolan said in a statement. “We are confident he brings the right combination of expertise and relationships to ensure the long-term success of our franchise.”
Rose, the former co-head of the basketball division at CAA Sports, replaces Steve Mills, who was fired early last month.
Rose has represented such all-stars as LeBron James, Chris Paul and former Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, along with current young stars Joel Embiid and Karl-Anthony Towns.
Now he will oversee all staff and decisions for the Knicks.
“New York is the epicentre of basketball and Madison Square Garden has always been very special to me,” Rose said. “To be a part of the Knicks revitalization and basketball at the Garden is a challenge and a rare opportunity, one to be cherished, and I will do my utmost to make the fans, the city and ownership proud.”
The Warriors won three championships and went to five straight NBA Finals under former agent Bob Myers, and the Lakers are leading the Western Conference while being run by Rob Pelinka, who was Kobe Bryant’s agent.
Rose is a New Jersey native who played basketball at Dickinson College and coached at the college and high school levels. He has spent plenty of time around the Garden, giving him an up-close look at the work that will need to be done.
The Knicks are 18-42 and already assured a seventh straight losing season. They fired coach David Fizdale after just 22 games and then split with Mills just before the trade deadline.
This season’s troubles started long before that. The Knicks hoped their turnaround could begin in July, when they had enough salary-cap space to sign two top players. But they couldn’t get any and settled for lesser choices, assembling a roster that never fit.
The Knicks hope Rose, with his 25 years of building player relationships, can attract stars, many of whom say they love playing at MSG – but not for the home team. Not since Anthony, who sought and eventually got a trade to New York from Denver in 2011, has a marquee player picked the Knicks.
He helped New York make the playoffs in his first three seasons, including a division title in 2013. But there have been no postseason appearances since.
Rose will have to make decisions on the Knicks’ ever-changing coaching and front-office staffs. Mike Miller took over as interim coach when Fizdale was fired in December, and general manager Scott Perry has run the basketball operations since Mills’s departure.
As for the roster, the Knicks do have seven first-round picks over the next four years and believe they have some promising young players already in place, such as rookie RJ Barrett and second-year centre Mitchell Robinson. Many of the veterans signed last summer were given short-term deals, allowing the Knicks to quickly go back into the free agency market.
Rose plans to take his time evaluating the organization, and he got his first look at the team from his new post Monday night when the Knicks played host to the Houston Rockets.
“Nothing about this is easy, or quick, so I ask for your continued patience,” Rose wrote in an e-mail to season-ticket holders. “What I promise you in return is that I will be honest and forthright. We will develop a plan that makes sense, both to jumpstart our short-term growth and ensure our long-term success.”