As the son of five-time All Star Tim Hardaway, the Knicks’ newest player grew up around the game. The word ‘culture’ wasn’t as popular as it is today, but Hardaway Jr. learned that winning teams had qualities that went beyond talent.
The second sign that the Knicks are fully committed to the ‘Go Forward’ mantra that James L. Dolan, Executive Chairman of The Madison Square Garden Company, spoke of earlier this month when the Knicks and Phil Jackson parted ways, was taken today.
Dolan announced that Mills has been named President of the Knicks and Scott Perry has been named the GM. Both have proven they value the character of players as well as their talent.
Mills’ first big move, the signing of Hardaway Jr., spoke to that.
And Perry, the former Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations for the Kings, is the man most responsible for initiating a culture change in Sacramento by bringing in high-character rookies De’Aaron Fox, Justin Jackson, Harry Giles, and Frank Mason III.
The Mills-Perry tandem is going forward with a clear vision of what the New York Knicks will stand for. It is an image Knicks’ fans have been yearning for in recent years.
“Today marks a culture change for our organization where we re-establish the pride, work ethic and responsibility that comes with playing for the Knicks and representing New York,” Mr. Dolan said in a statement.
“I’m confident that Steve is the right person to take on this role and ensure that we return to one of the elite teams of the NBA. He’s got an ambitious plan that centers on building a young team focused on player development, communication and teamwork.
“His decision to bring Scott on as general manager is a critical first step in transforming this franchise. Scott brings tremendous skill and experience in helping to build winning basketball teams.’’
Mills understands the unique challenges of playing and team building in New York. A Long Island native, Mills learned the importance of culture when he played at Princeton for legendary coach Pete Carril.
After he retired, NBA coaches and execs would invite Carril to watch practices and assess an organization’s strengths. Mills, who served as GM for the last three and one-half seasons, reveres Carril.
“Today is a new day for this franchise,’’ Mills said. “Scott will immediately begin to put together a basketball operations department that is among the best in the league. We will all be united in implementing our strategy, which is to build our team by developing young players, emphasizing athleticism, length and defense.
“We have several rising young stars in the organization and we expect to add more young talent to this core. Our message to our fans is clear: we will be disciplined in sticking to this strategy, hold our players and staff accountable to the high standards that we have set for ourselves, and deliver results.”
Perry knows this approach as well as any NBA executive. He helped shape the Detroit Pistons into a perennial Eastern Conference power and eventual NBA champs.
He worked quickly to change Sacramento’s image as one of the laughing stocks of the league. By bringing in a talented rookie class, and the signing of respected free agents Zach Randolph, George Hill and Vince Carter, there is a new culture in Sacramento.
“As general manager, I will work tirelessly to develop a culture that demands results, commitment and pride from everyone fortunate enough to be associated with our team – from our staff to our players.,’’ Perry said. “Nothing comes close to Madison Square Garden for basketball and it is our right and responsibility to showcase that tradition of excellence, day and night. I can’t wait to get started.”