Scott Perry’s first job in an NBA front office left an indelible mark on him. The Knicks’ new general manager takes some of the things he learned from former Pistons president Joe Dumars wherever he goes.
Dumars looked for certain kinds of people and players when he ran the Pistons and made sure everyone checked his agenda at the door. That part is very important to Perry.
As director of player personnel, he had a hand in putting together those Pistons teams from the 2000s that reached six straight Eastern Conference finals and two consecutive NBA Finals, winning the title in 2004.
Perry has tried to repeat that kind of success in an NBA journey that has taken him to Seattle, back to Detroit, Orlando, Sacramento and New York. But this is the first time he’s been the lead voice in the basketball department, and what he learned from Dumars will be some of what he brings to the Knicks.
“One of Joe’s lines was ‘no agendas,’ ” Perry said during an appearance on the BJ and Bucher NBA podcast in the spring. “The only agenda is winning. That’s something I’ve carried with me throughout my career in the NBA and that’s what I hope to carry with me in my next spot when I get an opportunity to run one of these teams.”
Perry spoke to the podcast’s hosts, former Bull B.J. Armstrong and longtime NBA reporter Ric Bucher, shortly after he was fired by the Magic in April. Days later, he was hired by the Kings, but he left them this past week to join the Knicks.
GM introduced Monday
Perry, 53, got a five-year contract to be the Knicks’ general manager under new president Steve Mills. The Knicks will hold a news conference Monday to introduce Perry and perhaps provide a plan moving forward.
“I will work tirelessly to develop a culture that demands results, commitment and pride from everyone fortunate enough to be associated with our team — from our staff to our players,” Perry said in a statement after the Knicks hired him. “Nothing comes close to Madison Square Garden for basketball, and it is our right and responsibility to showcase that tradition of excellence, day and night. I can’t wait to get started.”
First up will be figuring out the next steps in the Carmelo Anthony situation. The Knicks were close to trading Anthony to Houston, but they reportedly have put the talks on hold. They could start up again at any time.
The Knicks also need to find a veteran point guard in a nearly dried-up free-agent market. They could try to acquire one in a trade that involves Anthony or another roster player. The Knicks recently had conversations with Phoenix about Brandon Knight — who was drafted by the Pistons when Perry worked there and who played under Jeff Hornacek in Phoenix — and Eric Bledsoe.
Either way, Mills and Perry have their work cut out for them to get the Knicks, who have missed the playoffs the last four years, back to a competitive level, let alone the kind of team the Pistons were.
But Perry hearkens back to those years and what it took for Detroit to be one of the model franchises in the league at the time. It gives a little glimpse of what he will be looking to do with the Knicks.
“From Day 1, a vision was set by Joe and it trickled down to the rest of the staff: We want to be champions,” Perry said during the podcast. “Anything less was not going to be a success. Every day we ate, slept, worked, breathed championship. It takes players and good players to ultimately win a championship. If our culture was going to be a championship culture, we had to go out and start evaluating prospects who we felt could play at that level.
“Who were the tougher guys? What guys had better basketball IQs? What guys were willing to sacrifice a little bit of their individual glory for team success? These were the qualities we were looking for. We wanted as many people in that locker room that equally understood what it took to win and win championships. Nothing was more important than that.”
Perry hasn’t been able to recreate what the Pistons had from 2002-08. He spent a season as assistant general manager with Seattle the year the SuperSonics drafted Kevin Durant before returning to the Pistons for three nondescript seasons as vice president of basketball operations. He was with the Magic for five seasons as assistant GM before being fired after this past season.
Sharp talent evaluator
After he left the Pistons the first time, Perry’s teams have missed the playoffs nine out of 10 years, including the last eight. But he is considered a sharp basketball man and talent evaluator who has good relationships with agents and other executives.
That’s critical, given that former Knicks president Phil Jackson didn’t have either. Perry also has 17 years of NBA experience as a scout and front-office executive. Jackson had none before joining the Knicks.
When it comes to agendas, Jackson certainly had one. He wanted the Knicks to win by running the system he adores — the triangle offense — and forced his coaches to run it. A league source said Perry will let Hornacek run whatever offense he wants and that he won’t meddle.
In many of the interviews Perry has given recently, he has spoken about having no agendas and the importance of having good relationships with people.
“You chuck all individual agendas and leave them at the door when you come into the office,” Perry said in an interview with Kings.com, the Sacramento Kings’ website, in May. “Once you come into this office, we’re working together, it’s always fun.
“You need to create a team that is about sacrifice and helping the next person, about subverting your ego a little bit, for the betterment of the team. That’s what winning entails. My 11 years in Detroit were the best example for me of that. I lived it. Worked it every day. Coaching staff, players, front-office personnel, maintenance persons, it didn’t matter. If you’re in this building, you’re part of our team.”
U-turn in philosophy?
It’s unclear how much of a voice Perry will have within the Knicks because they have a number of front-office people and scouts who have been together for years. But any change of philosophy or different vision or new voice would be a step in the right direction for the Knicks, who have had three winning seasons in the last 16 years.
Perry spent less than three months as the Kings’ vice president of basketball operations. In an appearance on “The Vertical Podcast with Woj” (NBA writer Adrian Wojnarowski), he said one of the first things he did was set up 20-to-30-minute meetings with staff members to “learn each and every person’s story.”
That short time in Sacramento could have been the best preparation for Perry to take over the Knicks. The Kings have had many down years, have made poor personnel and basketball decisions, have been ridiculed throughout the league and were trying to clean up a big mess. Sacramento is a smaller-market Knicks.
Perry was credited with helping the Kings have a solid offseason in the draft and free agency. Now he will try to turn around the Knicks by using all of his NBA experiences.
“I have seen and been a part of about any type of circumstance that you can imagine in my 17 years, good, bad or in the middle,” Perry told B.J. and Bucher.
“All that has done is empowered my knowledge and my confidence in being able to go out and run a team and make sure it becomes a championship-caliber contender. That’s what I’m in it for. If you’re not in it to win the whole thing, why be in it?”