With owner James Dolan at the top of the franchise’s hierarchy, the Knicks once again reconfigured their front office and formally introduced Steve Mills and Scott Perry as the team’s new president and general manager, respectively, at their training facility in Greenburgh (Westchester County, N.Y.) Monday.
Mills, 57, a Roosevelt, Long Island native, who initially began working with the Knicks in 1999, served as their general manager under former team president Phil Jackson. Perry, 53, born and raised in Detroit, was the Sacramento Kings’ executive vice president of basketball operations before being hired by the Knicks. He also held various roles in the front offices of the Detroit Pistons, Seattle Supersonics and Orlando Magic.
Mills and Perry are the only African-American president-GM tandem in the NBA. For all the warranted criticism Dolan has received during his ownership of the Knicks, beginning in 1999 as chairman of Madison Square Garden, he has consistently provided Black men and woman high-level executive opportunities in the organization.
Perry’s late father, Lowell Perry, was a trailblazer in both business and athletics. After playing four seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1950s, the elder Perry went on to become the first African-American assistant coach in the NFL, Chrysler’s first African-American plant manager and the commissioner of the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission from 1975 to 1976.
“That’s not something lost on me,” Perry said of his and Mills’ standing. “I mentioned in my opening about my dad. His history in the [NFL] and that being groundbreaking. At end of the day, we want to be recognized for the quality of individuals we are and what type of job we’ll do to produce a winner in New York, regardless of race.”
Perry added, “But I also would be remiss not to say I don’t understand the gravity of that and embrace the gravity of that. Hopefully, if we’re successful it will open the doors for other young aspiring African-Americans who want to have these jobs.”
Success is something Knicks fans desperately desire. They haven’t made the playoffs in the past four seasons. Since 1999, Dave Checketts, Ernie Grunfeld, Scott Layden, Isiah Thomas, Donnie Walsh, Glen Grunwald, Jackson and Mills have all held the titles of president, general manager or both. None delivered a championship. Mills and Perry aspire to put the Knicks on course to end a drought that has lasted for 44 years and counting.
Resolving the Carmelo Anthony saga is paramount. The Knicks have been actively seeking to trade their lone star but are taking a measured, prudent approach.
“I felt it was important for us to slow down, regroup as it related to the trade scenarios with Carmelo,” Mills said Monday. “So we made a decision to slow things down, let us regroup and get together and make sure what’s best for the New York Knicks, and at the same time we’ll do what’s best for Carmelo.”