Leon Rose, an N.B.A. agent at Creative Artists Agency, will take over as the Knicks’ team president, a person with knowledge of the team’s plans who was not authorized to discuss them publicly said on Thursday. While Rose does not have experience in basketball operations, he has a deep well of connections to star players, including Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James, in his decades as an agent.
A Knicks spokesman declined to comment initially, but hours later the team released a statement on behalf of its owner, James L. Dolan. “We are actively looking for a new President of the New York Knicks and hope to conclude the search as quickly as possible,” Dolan said in the statement. “I am not selling, but I am determined to find the right leader for the Knicks who will ensure the long-term success of the team.”
The Knicks have moved swiftly to replace Steve Mills, whom the team announced was leaving his post on Tuesday, two days before the trade deadline. Rose’s hire will be yet another restart for the franchise, which has often been in flux under Dolan.
In the last 20 years, the Knicks have cycled through several team presidents, including Scott Layden, Isiah Thomas, Donnie Walsh, Phil Jackson and Mills. Since 2000, the team has made the playoffs only six times and advanced out of the first round twice. The Knicks have particularly fallen short in attracting superstar free agents. The only big-name stars who signed with the team in recent decades were Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire, even though the Knicks play in the country’s largest media market.
The franchise surely hopes that Rose’s connections with players will change that. Dolan decided he wanted to move quickly and hire a player agent rather than pursue an established team builder like Masai Ujiri, the Toronto Raptors’ team president, one of Dolan’s long desired targets.
Rose is not the only agent who has been a target for a basketball operations job in recent years. Rob Pelinka, the Los Angeles Lakers’ general manager and vice president for basketball operations, once represented Kobe Bryant. Bob Myers, the Golden State Warriors’ general manager and president for basketball operations, was also an agent before joining the franchise, although he was able to spend a season learning from his predecessor Larry Riley first. Arn Tellem was one of the most powerful agents in the industry. He was named vice chairman of the Detroit Pistons in 2015 and is a minority owner of the team.
There are less successful examples, as well, such as Lon Babby, who was team president of the Phoenix Suns from 2010 to 2015.
Rose, a native of Cherry Hill, N.J., played basketball at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa. He initially set out to be a coach but attended law school at Temple University as a fallback, graduating in 1986. One of his first jobs was as an assistant prosecutor in the Camden County, N.J. prosecutor’s office, during which he also was an assistant coach at Rutgers-Camden. Soon he joined his father’s firm in Philadelphia and dived into sports management.
His first foray into N.B.A. representation came in the mid-90s, when he took on Lionel Simmons, a La Salle standout, as a client, followed by Rick Brunson of Temple soon after. His client list grew to include Allen Iverson, Richard Hamilton and James. In 2007, Rose’s practice was purchased by C.A.A., a splashy move for the agency, which was looking to gain a foothold in professional sports in addition to its entertainment portfolio. Rose has become a powerful figure behind the scenes in the N.B.A., a league in which individual players hold more sway than in other professional sports leagues — making agents an important center of gravity.
Rose will have significant decisions to make as he inherits a franchise that has not won a championship since 1973 and is likely to miss the N.B.A. playoffs for the seventh straight year. He will have to hire a new coach for next season, run the draft pick process and recruit stars to revitalize the fan base. Among players who may be available this summer: Andre Drummond, Gordon Hayward and Anthony Davis.