Earlier this afternoon, Frank Isola of the New York Daily News reported that Scott O’Neil, president of Madison Square Garden Sports since 2008, would be resigning from his position. More recently, MSG and O’Neil both confirmed the report (credit to Seth Rosenthal for the linkage).
The move comes as a total surprise, and like many of the personnel moves in MSG, is pretty inexplicable. O’Neil was hired as president of MSG Sports in 2008, overseeing the New York Knicks, Rangers, Liberty, and the Hartford Wolfpack. O’Neil is a vaunted business man who deals with the marketing and sponsorships of all sports in MSG, according to his biography page on the Knicks’ official website.
O’Neil is represented by Creative Artists Agency (CAA), the highly-speculated infiltrators of the MSG front offices. CAA also represents James Dolan, Mike Woodson, Glen Grunwald, and Carmelo Anthony, among others, which makes O’Neil’s sudden resignation even more surprising. As Seth Rosenthal mentions in his piece linked above, O’Neil was sent to help court LeBron James in the summer of 2010 and played a role in landing Carmelo Anthony in 2011. According to Howard Beck of the New York Times, O’Neil’s involvement in basketball operations was an “annoyance” to some of that staff.
So what was the tipping point for O’Neil? We could, of course, speculate that O’Neil may have just wanted a new job. That seems reasonable. Or perhaps it was something else since this is the Knicks and the Knicks never seem to be as dull or simple as some things could/should be. Perhaps O’Neil grew tired of overseeing the hectic business of MSG. He was involved with the marketing and selling of the transformation of ‘The World’s Most Famous Arena’. Unlikely, though, as O’Neil was the former senior vice president of the NBA and has overseen bigger businesses. Likewise, business ain’t too bad for MSG these days, so this doesn’t seem like an emergency evacuation for Mr. O’Neil.
So, this leaves us with one of two options: a. the imminent return of Isiah Thomas as president! Or b. O’Neil lost in some kind of do-or-die, play-for-keeps competition to someone else in the MSG offices. Perhaps laser tag with Greg Economou?! I think the latter.
Sometimes – actually, quite often – we are forced to accept that the inside dealings of MSG can be a little strange, and a little suspicious. I, personally, try not to get caught up in these things; I just like their basketball team. Either way, eventually there will be a new president of MSG Sports, Farewell, Scott O’Neil.