The New York Knicks have made one of the bigger moves of trade deadline week — in the front office.
The Knicks are parting ways with team president Steve Mills, who had been in his role since July of 2017, confirming reports of the news from earlier Monday. In the shakeup, GM Scott Perry will continue in his role for the foreseeable future while also overseeing the team’s basketball operations.
The New York Knicks Announce Steve Mills to Leave His Position pic.twitter.com/Bdw37DKuEM
— NY_KnicksPR (@NY_KnicksPR) February 4, 2020
In the team’s statement, the Knicks said they anticipate Mills being “nominated to the Board of the standalone sports company, following the completion of the proposed spin-off entertainment business, pending all necessary approvals, including by the MSG Board.”
Team owner Jim Dolan is quoted in that same statment as saying: “Steve and I have come to the decision that it would be best for him to leave his role as president of the New York Knicks. We thank Steve for his many years of service to our organization and look forward to continuing our relationship with him as a part of our board.”
Additionally, the moving on from Mills is because owner Dolan plans to target Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri to oversee the Knicks’ operation, per multiple reports. Ujiri is under contract through the 2020-21 season.
Knicks owner Jim Dolan is targeting Toronto president Masai Ujiri to ultimately oversee New York’s operations, league sources tell ESPN. He is under contract through 2020-2021 in Toronto.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 4, 2020
Things can always change, but it’s worth noting that Masai Ujiri has told confidants in the past that he’d be open to considering the Knicks job if the circumstance was right. New York would obviously have to compensate Toronto in order to hire Ujiri. https://t.co/0f4yI0Fs1I
— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) February 4, 2020
Mills took over as team president shortly after the team parted ways with former team president Phil Jackson in June of 2017. Under Jackson, the Knicks went 80-166 with zero playoff appearances from 2014-17.
However, the Knicks’ fate hasn’t been much different in the Mills era either. Since the start of the 2017-18 season, New York has also failed to make the playoffs and was 46-164 entering this season. At 15-36 this season, the Knicks are essentially out of the Eastern Conference playoff chase again and have had three different coaches (Jeff Hornacek, David Fizdale, Mike Miller) since the summer of 2017.
Hornacek was fired after two seasons on the job (2016-18) while Fizdale lasted even less time. He was fired 22 games into this season and went 17-65 in 2018-19, his lone full season with the team. That tied the worst record in franchise history, but team officials believed a big summer could lead to a quick improvement.
However, they couldn’t sign any of the top free agents despite having enough money to afford two of them, watching as Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving instead went to the Brooklyn Nets. Mills then pivoted to sign veteran players to short-term contracts, later insisting those were the players New York was targeting all along.
Mills also oversaw the surprising trade of then-injured former All-Star forward Kristaps Porzingis to the Dallas Mavericks and the 2017 trade that sent Carmelo Anthony to the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Knicks did find some promising talent in the Draft while Mills was in his role, unearthing wiry big man Mitchell Robinson with the 36th pick in 2018 and selecting RJ Barrett with the No. 3 pick last year.
Overall, the Knicks have made the playoffs five times in the last 20 years, with the last trip coming in 2012-13.
Now it will be up to Perry to decide if there’s any moves worth making for the Knicks before Thursday’s trade deadline. Their big trade from last season appears to be a failure, as Porzingis has helped spark a turnaround in Dallas after New York traded its former All-Star there on Jan. 31, 2019.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.