James Dolan is the Millennialist Millennial

Don't let his age fool you. When it comes to being entitled and playing the blame game, nobody out-millennials the Knicks' owner.

Don’t look now, but the most valuable franchise in the NBA is owned by a millennial.

That’s not technically true, of course. But if you’ve kept one ear open to intake the bevy of James Dolan stories, perhaps you picked up on the all the signs that point to the 63-year-old actually behaving much more like the millennial stereotype than a senior citizen.

You know the stereotype: entitled, delusional about their own success, always playing the blame game. All millennials are the same, and it happens to be the only generation who fall victim to those impulses and character malfunctions at times. Or, at least, that’s what we’ve heard from hundreds of thought-pieces.

Of course, everyone knows that these stereotypes are by and large ridiculous. But that doesn’t mean that James Dolan doesn’t fit the “millennial profile” to a T.

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Dolan, the much-maligned owner of the New York Knicks, was back in the news just prior to the end of 2018 with an odd profile in ESPN The Magazine. And while there’s not much that qualifies as newsworthy in the article, there was enough troubling content that we can’t simply give Dolan a free pass for his crimes against decency and common sense.

James Dolan’s background and history as a poor owner is well-documented and doesn’t need to be rehashed. In short, his father was the founder of Cablevision and the son became CEO of the company in 1995 at age 40. Dolan took over the day-to-day management of the New York Knicks and New York Rangers a few years later. Not-so-coincidentally, the now decades-long struggles of both franchises coincided rather neatly with Dolan’s takeover. Dolan has gone through coaches at a fantastic rate with both franchises, and his myriad management missteps have been quite public.

This is a man who presided over a team who so botched a workplace harassment accusation that NBA Commissioner David Stern said that the Knicks were “not a model of intelligent management.” It’s not easy to pull a quote like that from the commish.

Ironically, this cranky, ageing man has become — or perhaps more accurately, always has been — the personification of the very stereotype that is often foisted upon Generation Y.

1. Entitlement: It’s all about number one.

We all know that millennials only care about themselves and think they’re owed the world. But James Dolan takes this sentiment to a whole new level.

Take, for example, his reaction in the ESPN profile. When asked about the Isiah Thomas sexual harassment case back in 2007 — yes, the same Isiah Thomas who, remarkably, works for Dolan now on the WNBA side of the business — Dolan said: 

“I think we didn’t defend ourselves well, so shame on us. … I’d make sure that the truth came out, and the truth didn’t come out. People told me when you’re in these kinds of trials that it’s stacked against you, as being the big employer versus, particularly, a minority woman…”

Yikes. The tone-deafness of an ageing white billionaire declaring the deck was stacked against him in a lawsuit brought by a young black woman is off the charts. It’s practically the definition of entitlement, and about as millennial as one could get. Combine that with the comments Dolan made in 2015 accusing Thomas’ accuser of making up “a bunch” of the allegations and we’ve got ourselves some serious victim blaming — in a case that was tried by a jury that found Thomas and the Knicks liable, no less.

To compound matters, Dolan rehired Thomas in 2015 to run the New York Liberty as team president, initially intending to give him an ownership stake in the team too, although that push was abandoned after facing some backlash.

So, to recap: Dolan rehired a guy who was found guilty of sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment for women. But he didn’t just rehire him, he rehired him to oversee the women’s basketball team. And then, Dolan had the gall to be offended by the backlash, not only immediately after the fact but apparently still remains confused, 12 years later.

Oh, and don’t forget Dolan’s band, JD & The Straight Shot — yes, really — who recently released a song about sexual predators that certainly seems to allude to the Harvey Weinstein revelations. When WFAN radio host Maggie Gray went on a justified rant regarding Dolan’s flippant behavior about sexual harassment, Dolan banned his employees from not only appearing on WFAN airwaves but from doing any business whatsoever with the company.

You see, Dolan is entitled to what he deems fair press coverage. And if he doesn’t get it, well, he’ll show them. (Wait. Which presidential campaign did Dolan donate $300,000 to again?)

2. Delusions of grandeur despite mediocre work.

Everyone gets a trophy. As long as I put in some work, as long as I punched the clock and waited ‘til the end of the day to slide down the dinosaur tail then I get a blue ribbon, right?

That’s what those darn millennials think, at least. Sorry, millennials and James Dolan.

While Dolan still boasts the franchise with the highest valuation in the league at $3.6 billion, it isn’t because they’ve won, or even had a respectable off-court run. Quite the opposite, in fact. And while the $3.6 billion valuation is apparently not delusional, Dolan couldn’t quite bring himself to refute a report that he’s “fielded offers” north of $5 billion for the franchise.

“No one has come through with a bona fide offer … I think people have sent feelers out, but never any that were pursued. Yeah, [the feelers are] around that number [$5 billion], but those things, it’s like a stock price. It’s only important if you’re going to buy or sell.”

Speaking of delusional, look no further than the Knicks’ horrendous record landing marquee free agents during Dolan’s reign. New York has pitched everyone from LeBron James (twice! They didn’t even get a meeting this summer) to Chris Bosh and on down the line, even losing out on the likes of Greg Monroe to Milwaukee. The only star signed by Dolan was mere fool’s gold in the form of 28-year-old Amar’e Stoudemire, whose balky knees only allowed him one All-Star appearance as a Knick despite landing a $100 million contract.

As much as Dolan feels entitled to superstars simply because he owns the New York Knicks, the NBA’s best players have proved his delusions of grandeur to be exactly that — delusions.

3. Playing the blame game.

Ah, the blame game. It’s perhaps Dolan’s favorite tactic in pumping himself up. Blaming someone else and tearing others down is easier than actually doing the right thing, working hard, and getting results.

The Knicks’ lack of success? According to Dolan in his interview with ESPN, the franchise is “burdened by its history,” therefore making it difficult for him to manage the front office. So he hired Phil Jackson to allow himself to step aside from the day-to-day. Of course, Jackson bombed as basketball boss in New York, and Dolan didn’t exactly accept responsibility for the bad hire.

Back in 2005, the hiring of Larry Brown as head coach was not only a clear blunder but also an obvious case of the blame game. Dolan hired Brown for five years and $50 million only to fire him after one season and after his buyout, pay him a total of $28 million. That’s $341,463.41 per game — an expensive blame game indeed.

The WNBA’s Liberty? Well, if you ask Dolan, he gives this whopper of an answer.

“I don’t know how to be successful with the Liberty. …I’ll be damned if I know how to get people to go to those games. … We’ve pumped tons of marketing dollars, we’ve done everything we can to make the team successful, and people don’t come. I think it’s the time of year and the perception that the sport is not as good as the NBA.”

Oof. Talk about punting on an entire franchise. Dolan is throwing his hands up and saying that of everything that he’s been involved in over his decades-long career, selling basketball is the thing that he can’t figure out. While Adam Silver identifies an actual problem (the audience skews toward older men and the league isn’t connecting with, ironically, millennials) that needs solving, Dolan forfeits and says that pumping “tons of marketing dollars” into the team just hasn’t worked. In short, it’s insulting, it’s lazy, and it’s bad business.

There are plenty of other non-basketball items Dolan shifts the blame away from himself. In the same interview with ESPN, he distances himself from both Donald Trump and Harvey Weinstein; the acrobatics done by Dolan are impressive, to say the least. Also in December was the announcement that Dolan owes a $600,000 fine to the Federal Trade Commission due to securities rule violations. That, of course, was due to a late filing from a law firm that Dolan does business with. Never mind what the FTC called a “continuous violation” and multiple missed deadlines.

James Dolan is, in fact, a millennial

Look, it’s not news that James Dolan is a poor owner. Forbes called him “the dumbest owner in sports” following the Thomas re-hire debacle. But it’s the way he continues to operate with his head willfully in the sand, emerging only to give a carefully-guarded ESPN profile that somehow managed to paint him in a decent light.

And that’s why it’s so important to point out that James Dolan might just be one of the world’s worst — and certainly wealthiest — millennials. Don’t be fooled, those “millennial” characteristics that you’ve always heard about may just be masquerading as the qualities of a 63-year-old billionaire.

While James Dolan is busy touring the country with JD & The Straight Shot or devaluing his properties with comments about how he can’t figure out how to sell tickets, you’ll catch him out in the wild, doing what he does best: being a millennial.

Ben Beecken
Ben Beecken
Ben Beecken is a writer at Grandstand Central with a primary focus on the NBA, MLB, and NFL. He has spent nearly a decade working on the business side of sports including eight seasons in minor league baseball team front offices. Ben is also an editor and writer at Dunking With Wolves and a contributor across the FanSided network.


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