The Knicks, persistently in the market for credibility, clout and connections, made a move to address all three shortcomings on Wednesday by adding one of basketball’s best-known outsiders to the team’s front office.
The new hire, William Wesley, is more commonly known in N.B.A. circles by his nickname, World Wide Wes. He joined the Knicks as an executive vice president and senior basketball adviser, the team said, but already had deep ties to the organization’s leadership.
Wesley is a longtime associate of the Knicks president Leon Rose, a relationship that dates to their high school days in Cherry Hill, N.J. Most recently, Wesley worked as a recruitment consultant for Creative Artists Agency, where he worked alongside Rose.
“We are very excited to announce the hiring of William Wesley, someone that I have known for over 40 years and consider to be family,” Rose said in a statement. “He is one of the most well-connected and respected people in the basketball community and he will be a tremendous asset and resource to both myself and the New York Knicks.”
For decades, Wesley has been known as one of the most powerful outsiders in the industry. His actual influence has been a source of much speculation and puzzlement — he rarely gives interviews or talks about his business — and has almost entirely been linked to his networking ability.
But his meticulously low profile belies what many have described as the huge sway he wields in basketball.
Before joining C.A.A., the sports and entertainment giant, a decade ago to work alongside Rose, Wesley was already known for his ties to top N.B.A. figures like LeBron James and Michael Jordan, and for leading recruitment efforts on behalf of college coaches, especially John Calipari, who is now at Kentucky.
William Wesley in 2019. He has known the Knicks president Leon Rose since high school.Credit…Johnny Nunez/WireImage
Wesley is occasionally seen at major sporting events, often spotted next to celebrities including Jay-Z, and he was on the floor in 2004 trying to protect Metta Sandiford-Artest, then known as Ron Artest, during the brawl that broke out between the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons in Detroit.
“My long history with and respect for Jim Dolan and Leon Rose, as well as the chance to be part of the New York Knicks, made this an opportunity I wanted to pursue,” Wesley said in a statement. “I look forward to joining the current staff and moving the organization toward a successful future.”
The most pressing decision currently for the Knicks front office brass is who will be the team’s coach next season. On this front, Wesley’s hiring may provide a signal. One of his former C.A.A. clients, Tom Thibodeau, has been heavily linked to the Knicks job in recent months.
But beyond that, Wesley and Rose, whose hiring was announced in March, just before the N.B.A. suspended its season, hope to leverage their relationships with players to lure them into making the Knicks a prime free-agent destination again.
In recent decades, the Knicks have had persistent problems attracting star players. Aside from trading for and re-signing a willing Carmelo Anthony in 2011 and 2014 and acquiring Amar’e Stoudemire in 2010, the Knicks have mostly swung and missed on many of their biggest targets.
Last year, Kevin Durant, who opted to go to the Nets instead of the Knicks, said in a radio interview that the “whole brand of the Knicks is not as cool as, let’s say, the Golden State Warriors.”