• Villanova Sports Law Blog

Agent to President- Leon Rose to take over the Knicks

Updated: Feb 27, 2020

By: Grant Farmer


One of the most prominent basketball agents, Leon Rose of Creative Artists Agency, has tentatively been named the President of the New York Knicks. Rose will replace Steve Mills, who previously held the position. This move comes after the Knicks failed to hire the President of the reigning NBA champions, Masai Ujiri of the Toronto Raptors. Rose’s hiring marks a growing trend in NBA front offices of hiring player-agents to be the head basketball decision-maker. Rose represented some of the top names in basketball, including Carmelo Anthony, Devin Booker, Joel Embiid, Chris Paul, and Karl-Anthony Towns. He takes over an extremely tough situation as the Knicks have missed the playoffs every year since 2013 and are currently on pace to continue that streak.


Rose joins a growing list of agents who have been hired as front office members for NBA teams. This group includes Rob Pelinka (Los Angeles Lakers), Bob Myers (Golden State Warriors), Arn Tellem (Detroit Pistons), and Justin Zanik (Utah Jazz). [1] The two, most prominent in that group, Pelinka and Myers, were both initially hired as number two decision makers. However, Rose is expected to be the Knicks’ lead decision-maker. An interesting subplot in hiring Rose is that the move will not officially be announced by the Knicks until Rose’s commissions from signing multi-year contracts for his clients are resolved. [2]


The team that Rose will be inheriting is certainly far from championship contention, as there is not a single NBA All-Star on the roster. Moreover, their three most recent first-round picks, RJ Barrett, Kevin Knox, and Frank Ntilikina all continue to struggle to be above-average players. For the Knicks to be a legitimate playoff team, it is critical for them to draft and develop young talent. The last player drafted by the Knicks who then signed a multi-year deal with the team after his rookie contract, was former Heisman Trophy winner, Charlie Ward, drafted in 1994. [3]

The Knicks have hired former players (Isiah Thomas and Steve Mills), experienced executives (Donnie Walsh and Glen Grunwald), and a Hall of Fame coach (Phil Jackson) as their head basketball decision-maker since the beginning of this century. With the exception of Walsh’s tenure, all of those hires led to catastrophic results. Since James Dolan became the Knicks’ primary owner in 2000, the team has won only one playoff series. Over that 20-year span, the team has missed the playoffs more times (14) than they have total playoff wins (nine). [4]

Given Rose’s pre-existing relationship with some of the top young players in the league, including Jaren Jackson Jr., Karl-Anthony Towns, and Devin Booker, it is reasonable to infer that Rose should be able to lure one of those players via trade or through free agency to the Big Apple. However, the Knicks should not attempt player personnel moves that are short-sighted. Rather, the Knicks should only attempt roster transactions that strengthen the team’s foundation and help move it towards relevancy.


I think this is certainly a risky decision for the Knicks to have made. However, given their futility as a franchise over the past two decades, it might be time to think outside of the box when hiring new management. It is of paramount importance for the Knicks to hire an experienced, front office executive to work along-side Rose. Rich Cho (current Vice President of Basketball Strategy for the Memphis Grizzlies), Bobby Marks (current NBA Front Office Insider for ESPN), and Troy Weaver (current Vice President of Basketball Operations for the Oklahoma City Thunder), should each be given very strong consideration to help Rose run the Knicks. The Knicks’ upside in hiring Rose is that it is almost impossible for them to be worse.



References:

[1] Post Staff Report. (Feb. 7, 2020). Leon Rose not first sports agent to make switch to front office. Retrieved from https://nypost.com/2020/02/07/leon-rose-not-first-sports-agent-to-make-switch-to-front-office/

[2] Berman, M. (Feb. 12, 2020). The real reason behind Knicks’ Leon Rose holdup. Retrieved from https://nypost.com/2020/02/12/knicks-leon-rose-holdup-has-nothing-to-do-with-bogus-excuse/

[3] Kalbrosky, B. (Feb. 1, 2019). Knicks have not given a multi-year contract to any draft pick this century. Retrieved from https://hoopshype.com/2019/02/01/kristaps-porzingis-trade-analysis-new-york-knicks-second-contract/

[4] https://www.basketball-reference.com/teams/NYK/