I covered The Knicks in the mid 90’s during a time in which every spring the team would bring special moments into the view of New York sports fans. Charles Oakley was a big part of that and in the words of Patrick Ewing is “a friend for life.” The way he has been treated in the past few days is in a word-disgraceful.
Oakley as a player wore his heart on his sleeve and I can safely tell you in my dealings with him I always got the truth—even if the tone of that truth needed to be brutal. This past week, we heard the word abuse from the owner of the team and to be perfectly candid, when I hear Jim Dolan try to define that word.
I simply turn off the volume on my device when he is speaking. He had a chance to properly define that word in the Isiah Thomas case and failed miserably at that. If he really believed Oakley has an issue, that should have been a one on one conversation with either Oakley or his representatives-not on a highly rated program like The Michael Kay Show heard by so many New Yorkers.
I would think Dolan being an addict once in his life that needed help would understand that. But he was merely throwing a former employee under the bus and that is disgraceful. We all know the Knicks are a mess right now and I know that rips the heart out of Oakley because he realizes that a successful Knick team can grip this town and their fans deserve better.
I can safely tell you both covering the Knicks and also having worked at Cablevision for a decade that so many times that organization speaks out of both sides of their mouth. While working there, employees were told they had to go see Dolan’s musical band perform. The truth is I did go and honestly thought they were pretty good but why not make it optional. Because it was all about control.
That might sound like a corny illustration but it speaks to how the organization exhibits paranoia every waking moment and simply does not understand the “news cycle” has to run its course and teams have to, at times, let criticism roll off their backs because paranoia becomes the story—not the story the press originally reported.
But this Oakley situation really makes me angry and those of you who know me realize anger is not an emotion you usually see from me. In many ways, there is a little of Charles Oakley in all of us—passionate and caring as we wear out hearts on our sleeves.
He came to the Garden that night to watch his team play and perhaps voice his displeasure with the way his old squad looks both on and off the court. If you expect me to believe, Jim Dolan was OK with hearing that displeasure, I can only tell you that is simply unbelievable.
I sincerely hope someone can step in and bring both parties together because Oakley is a big part of Knick history. Since I both worked at Cablevision in my past as well as cover Oakley, I would be more than willing to mediate that conversation.
We all have friends in our life like Charles Oakley and we love them despite their minor imperfections. And the organization should realize this story is not going away. So let’s get in a room and hammer out a way we can repair the damage done here.
I’ll even buy lunch!