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Dolan’s Press Gambit Pays Off

Cablevision Systems president Jim Dolan took to his own airwaves Monday night, in his role as Madison Square Garden overseer, on MSG Network with Isiah Thomas, the National Basketball Association’s New York Knicks’ president, who’s also becoming the team’s head coach after Dolan and Thomas fired Larry Brown.

Dressed in his customary tieless and casual-looking black garb, alongside the impeccably suited Thomas, Dolan sat for what MSG billed as an unedited interview with Al Trautwig, with no subject matter barred.

Brown’s firing was the principal subject matter, as it was in an earlier untelevised sitdown at the Garden with some Knicks beat writers.

Dolan said hiring Brown to begin with was a mistake, citing alleged offenses by the coach that included talking with reporters without a Cablevision press rep in attendance and, generally, communicating with players through the media. Dolan added that he instituted the policy about talking with the media after former general manager Ernie Grunfeld and former coach Jeff Van Gundy feuded in 1999 -- the last time the Knicks made the NBA Finals.

While the controlled aspect of the Dolan-Thomas appearances prompted some media grumbling Tuesday, it did one remarkable thing: It generated a pro-Dolan headline in The New York Times. “It’s Hard to Believe, but Dolan Gets it Right” ran atop a sympathetic column by Harvey Araton Tuesday.

Cablevision chairman Charles Dolan might have gotten the sympathy ball rolling on Monday, though, with a letter published in the Times defending his son’s management of the Garden and of Cablevision. That letter responded to a column by Selena Roberts in the June 23 Times sports pages headed, “Bad Seed is to Blame for the Mess at the Garden.”

“Jim is unafraid in facing unpopular problems,” the elder Dolan wrote in part, “whether investing unhesitatingly in support of the Knicks, sitting in the front row for nearly every game or revising some of his father's favorite business plans.”

The last bit, of course, related to last year’s boardroom showdown over Charles Dolan’s Voom HDTV satellite-TV venture, which Jim Dolan and other directors opposed continuing.