Mills’s departure comes less than two months after the Knicks fired Coach David Fizdale and an assistant, Keith Smart. Mills lasted two and a half years as team president, but in that time, the Knicks were spurned by every A-list free agent despite playing in the league’s biggest market. The team’s failure to sign a superstar was compounded by last season’s trade of Kristaps Porzingis to the Dallas Mavericks, which netted the Knicks very little in return for a player who had been the franchise cornerstone. About six weeks later, Dolan told ESPN Radio, “I can tell you from what we’ve heard, we’re going to have a very successful off-season when it comes to free agents.”
Instead, the Knicks signed several ill-fitting forwards in the off-season and had to watch as Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, two of the summer’s marquee free agents, signed with their crosstown rivals, the Nets. Durant and Irving also brought along DeAndre Jordan, whom the Knicks had acquired last year as part of the Porzingis trade.
Durant told Yahoo during the summer that he had never considered signing with the Knicks, a once unthinkable admission for a superstar free agent in his prime. In October, Durant said in a radio interview, “The cool thing now is not the Knicks.” Recent draft picks, like Kevin Knox, Frank Ntilikina and Mitchell Robinson, haven’t yet shown that they can have long careers in the N.B.A. Since Mills became president in June 2017, the Knicks have gone 61-154.
This season took a particularly strange turn in early November after a blowout loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Mills and Perry held a surprise news conference to express dissatisfaction with how the season was going. The team was 2-8 at the time and has gone just 13-28 since.
Mills’s time as president was his latest chapter in a long history with the team, including as a former executive with the Madison Square Garden Company, the team’s parent company. Mills was president of Madison Square Garden Sports from 2003 to 2008, another harrowing period for the Knicks, during which Mills suggested that the Knicks hire Isiah Thomas, the former Detroit Pistons guard, as president. This caused issues on and off the court, notably when another team executive hired by Mills, Anucha Browne Sanders, accused Thomas of sexual harassment and filed a lawsuit in 2006 against Madison Square Garden and Thomas. The case was settled the next year for $11.5 million.