James Dolan says 'You got to believe, baby,' that fans have been great

ByIan Begley ESPN logo
Thursday, April 9, 2015

NEW YORK -- The Knicks have been historically bad this season. But owner James Dolan still has complete faith in Phil Jackson.

"You got to believe, baby! I believe, I believe!" Dolan said in a wide-ranginginterview with The Hollywood Reporter on basketball and his business and media enterprises.

Dolan signed Jackson to a five-year, $60 million contract in March 2014 with the hope that Jackson could turn the franchise around.

Instead, the rebuilding Knicks are enduring the worst season in franchise history under Jackson.

They are the first team in Knicks history to lose 60 games and will finish the season with the lowest winning percentage in franchise history. Dolan says he is optimistic about the rebuild, but frustration seemed to get the best of him in early February during an email exchange with a fan. Dolan wrote the fan an angry missive suggesting that the fan was an alcoholic. Dolan also recommended that the fan root for the rival Brooklyn Nets.

The email was written in response to the fan asking Dolan to sell the team.

"I don't believe what I said was wrong. I believe responding to him was wrong. I believe what I said was absolutely correct. But that's the thing -- why engage with people like that? That was a mistake," Dolan said in the interview.

Dolan was asked what he would say to fans who ask him to sell the Knicks.

"I don't respond to people like that. I learned a lesson this year about that. I won't do it again," the owner said.

Dolan also gushed over the attendance at Knicks games this season. Despite their struggles, the Knicks still have sold out every home game this season, according to the team.

"The majority of them understand we're in a rebuild, we're moving as fast as we can and they see our opportunities as being huge. I think they are, but it's all in Phil's hands," Dolan said.

Jackson and the Knicks are expected to have a high pick in June's draft and will have at least $25 million to spend in free agency. So Jackson and general manager Steve Mills hope to build the team into a contender this summer.

Jackson accepted the job of Knicks president on the condition that he have autonomy when it comes to basketball decisions. Dolan said he hasn't interfered in any decisions yet.

"I don't see it happening. Phil is a brilliant basketball guy, and he and Steve [Mills] are working together great," said Dolan, who has a history of getting involved in basketball decisions. "I enjoy being out of the limelight. I enjoy having two experts in there that I trust. I barely have to do a thing. It can stay like that for me forever. As long as we continue to make progress -- and I'm sure we will. I believe!"