Leon Rose emerged from quarantine for the first time Wednesday night, and in his first interview since taking over as team president in March, discussed his vision for the Knicks and preached positivity, but provided little substance.
The debut appearance in front of public eyeballs for Rose came via an interview with the honorable Mike Breen on MSG Network. Though Breen did not sneak a ‘Bang!’ into the broadcast, it was lovely to see and hear him. Hopefully he calls some of the games the NBA is planning in its Disney bubble return, assuming the spike in new Florida coronavirus cases doesn’t result in the league having to cancel the whole shebang.
But while we could sit here and talk about Breen all day, the item of the moment is that the new team president said words on television. Rose touched on a number of topics, including what he thinks of some of the current players, how he’s approaching the draft and free agency, and why he hired a guy nicknamed ‘Worldwide Wes.’
Rose Wishes He Had More Time To Evaluate The Team
Breen asked whether it was disheartening when the Knicks were excluded from the NBA’s plans to return, and Rose responded that his disappointment is tied to the fact that the season being disrupted caused him to miss out on valuable evaluation time.
Rose said that one of his main goals upon taking the job was to do some serious evaluating over the last few months of the season, but COVID-19 had other plans.
“Obviously, that got sidetracked as a result of the pandemic,” he said.
Still, Rose was able to provide rudimentary assessments of a handful of the players currently on the roster. Mitchell Robinson and R.J. Barrett are “two young core pieces,” he said, and he’s “looking forward to working with” Kevin Knox. As for Frank Ntilikina, Rose said “given the right circumstances, I think he can really prosper.” He also called Dennis Smith Jr. a “special talent,” and described Julius Randle as a “solid veteran.”
It’s better than the time James Dolan needed notes to remember Mitch’s name when speaking to Michael Kay, but it’s not much to go on.
The Knicks Are Doing Lots Of Prep For the Draft
Rose danced around talking about any specifics, but he did emphasize that the Knicks are doing plenty of preparation for the upcoming draft, which is currently scheduled for October 16. He hinted that maybe part of the reason Scott Perry’s option for next season was picked up is that he has been working on draft prep, which is a process that “goes on all year.”
The Knicks are actively holding calls and Zooms with potential draftees, and Rose, Perry and the scouts are spending lots of time watching a “ton of film.”
Pressed on whether there were any specific players, or even player prototypes that he might target most forcefully, Rose demurred, saying only that he values things like talent, character, who a person is and how they fit with the roster.
Although he didn’t name names, Rose said the upcoming draft has “a couple” of standout guys and then a lot of similarly talented players who are clearly not at the same level as the exclusive top tier.
The Knicks have a 9% chance of winning the lottery, but are most likely to get the 7th pick. Where will they fall? Will somebody freeze a gosh darn envelope for goodness sake?
Worldwide Wes Is A Well-Respected Builder Of Relationships
The interview came on the same day the Knicks officially announced the hiring of William ‘Worldwide Wes’ Wesley as a senior basketball adviser, which is a move most people saw coming if they were paying attention.
NEW YORK KNICKS NAME WILLIAM WESLEY EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT – SENIOR BASKETBALL ADVISOR pic.twitter.com/fEPxuvU0v3— NY_KnicksPR (@NY_KnicksPR) June 24, 2020
When Rose was hired, there were rumors galore that he would bring in Wesley — the two worked together for over a decade at Creative Artists Agency.
Rose gushed about his buddy, saying Wesley is “one of the most well respected and connected people in the basketball community.” As we’ve previously been told, this is a business built on relationships, Rose said, and relationship building is one of Worldwide Wes’ specialties.
“Getting someone of that stature [and] character into the organization is something that is going to benefit us greatly,” Rose said.
Free Agents Will Eventually Want To Come Here, Rose Swears
Breen opened his inquiry about how Rose will go about trying to attract free agents by pointing out that the Knicks have struggled to nab the elite of the elite recently. According to Rose, and you’re never going to believe that this is the hidden secret of hitting it big in free agency, the key to becoming a place players want to play is to “create an environment where players are going to want to come here.”
And how might the Knicks accomplish such a feat under Rose? By becoming a “first class” organization, he said. He also noted that New York City is the greatest city in the world, and referred to Madison Square Garden as an “iconic arena.”
These all feel like platitudes until Rose can actually start to show some of his work. Which, to be fair, hasn’t been something he’s been able to do because the NBA shut down right as he came aboard.
Mike Miller Could Win The Head Coaching Gig, But So Might Many Others
The Knicks are reportedly planning to interview an entire baseball diamond’s worth of head coaching candidates, but Rose wouldn’t discuss any specific names other than Miller, the interim coach who went 17-27 as head honcho this year after taking over in the wake of David Fizdale’s mid-season firing.
Rose said Miller “did a great job in a difficult situation,” and that he’ll be one of the people who gets an interview. The Knicks are first holding shorter meetings with candidates to “break the ice,” with full interviews coming later.
The entire coaching search is expected to be wrapped up by the end of July, Rose said. Importantly, Rose does not intend to force any basketball philosophy onto whichever coach he ultimately picks, which merely means he isn’t Phil Jackson.
His Message To Knicks Fans Is That We Deserve A Winner
Breen’s final question to Rose was what message he’d like to impart to Knicks fans. Rose certainly didn’t whiff, but his response simply featured more of what the rest of the interview was. He said a bunch of vague stuff about building the right way and working hard.
Here, listen for yourself: