Knicks News: World Wide Wes Coming to MSG
After months of dancing around the idea that CAA's William Wesley, better known as World Wide Wes, would be assisting his pal Leon Rose from afar, the Knicks dropped a stunner on Wednesday, announcing that he would be joining the front office in an official capacity as Executive Vice President and Senior Basketball Advisor.
The Knicks also made the hire of Alex Kline official, and announced that they were hiring TJ Zanin (brother of Frank Zanin, their new assistant general manager) as a scout as well. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski was the first to report the news about Wesley.
While this is still a developing story, and Leon Rose will speak on MSG Network Wednesday night at 7pm to perhaps add more to it, there are several immediate questions the hire raises. Here are the top five:
5. What does this mean for the coaching search?
There were already plenty of insinuations that the Knicks' head coaching search was heavily tied to CAA, the agency for which Leon Rose helmed basketball operations for many years. This not only meant that Tom Thibodeau was always considered the most likely candidate to get the job, but also left some wondering how much it influenced New York's choice of who else to interview since several of the additional candidates are represented by CAA, as first reported by Marc Berman of the New York Post.
Now that noise will only increase. Marc Stein noted on Twitter that Wes is "a big Tom Thibodeau advocate," seemingly making the Thibs hire even more of an inevitability than it once was.
4. How much power does Scott Perry have left?
This question has gotten louder and louder with each additional Rose hire: first Brock Aller to be his chief-of-staff, then Walt Perrin and Frank Zanin to be the heads of college and pro scouting, respectively, and now World Wide Wes, whose title implies that he will be Perry's superior. Stein also noted how Wesley was already assisting in New York's front office hires from afar.
This is welcome news to those who feel that Perry didn't deserve to be retained in any capacity, and at the very least, puts the pressure on him to show his worth in the 2020-21 season.
3. Why now?
When the Leon Rose hire was first announced, the Athletic initially reported that Wesley would be joining the organization with him, only to later retract that statement, reporting that his other business interests would prevent him from officially joining the team.
Something has obviously changed, whether it's him tying up the necessary loose ends or simply the feeling that more can be accomplished from the inside. To that end, multiple league sources have told me that one name to keep in mind with the World Wide Wes connection is Devin Booker. Booker is a CAA client, and although he has four more years on the extension he signed with the Phoenix Suns, he could be a prime target if the Knicks do eventually try to swing a trade for a young star, as he and Wes are close.
That said, this move could have taken place in July, or August, or any other time before this league year officially ends. Unless...
2. How much does this have to do with Statement-gate?
It can't be ruled out that this move was prompted, at least in part, by the recent PR nightmare involving James Dolan and the Knicks being the last team to put out a statement following the nationwide protests in support of Black Lives Matter.
After Brian Windhorst said on ESPN that the Knicks' popularity among players was at an all time low, it's possible that the powers that be felt this move could help repair that damage, even after the Knicks and Rangers held a youth symposium on Juneteenth to discuss and raise awareness about racial issues. After all, Wesley is arguably the most respected non-former player in the NBA, regardless of race. That he felt comfortable working for James Dolan likely carries a great deal of weight.
Sure enough, after Wesley's hire was announced, one prominent ESPN talking head voiced his strong support:
Will this make a difference for their image in the long run? Winning a bit wouldn't hurt, which leads us to the biggest question of all...
1. Was this the right move?
Many have speculated that World Wide Wes could be far more help from outside of the organization than he could be from within, simply because if he stayed with CAA, tampering rules could not apply to him.
Now, he'll be under the same (admittedly lightly enforced) restrictions that any other team employee would be facing.
Will the move ultimately pay off regardless? The people who know the answer to that question better than anyone are likely Rose and Wes themselves, so one has to think they know what they're doing here.