Irked fans still planning MSG protest

NEW YORK -- A group of New York Knicks fans planning to protest owner James Dolan and team executives' handling of the franchise hasn't been dissuaded by the hiring of Phil Jackson.

The group plans to hold a protest prior to the Knicks' game Wednesday against the Pacers.

"The rally is still on," Mark Griffin, one of the organizers of the protest, wrote in an email Sunday night. "As a group, we all share the same promise and hope that other Knicks fans have at the hiring of Phil Jackson. This is a good step, but it does not change our skepticism that Dolan will allow Phil the autonomy to bring a real competitor to Madison Square Garden. We've been sold the same promise and hope time again by this owner."

The Knicks declined comment on Sunday night.

New York has won a season-high six straight games and, according to sources, reached a deal with Jackson on Friday to hire the 13-time NBA champ as team president.

Jackson is expected to be introduced at a news conference Tuesday.

The fan group that has organized the protest -- KF4L (Knicks Fans For Life) -- cites issues with Dolan, the lack of communication from team president/GM Steve Mills and the team's ties to Creative Artists Agency as its main sources of contention.

"We know Dolan's history of stubborn behavior and that nothing really changes unless he changes. We still want to let Dolan know that we hold him accountable for where things go from here," Griffin wrote in an email. "We support Phil Jackson and hope he has a lot of success. We at KF4L want to see Phil provided full autonomy."

The group also takes issue with Mills failing to publicly explain the team's decision-making.

"Steve Mills has yet to speak to the media or fans about the state of the team since he came back. The fans deserve explanations and the media deserve to do their job in order to keep fans informed," Griffin wrote earlier this month.

The group originally expected 50-100 fans at the protest, but expectations have been tempered by the Knicks' recent winning streak and Jackson's hiring.

"We know that Phil provides hope for many and combined with the win streak could have an effect on our numbers at the rally but as a group we looked at the history of Dolan's regime, the history of false hope sold at the Garden and came to the conclusion that having the rally was still appropriate," Griffin wrote. ".... This rally is really about like minded fans making their voices heard,and whether that number is 10 or 100 we still feel like it is worthwhile to let Dolan know what our expectations are."

Knicks fans have organized public protests in the past. A group in December 2007 protested the team's poor performance under Dolan and then-GM/coach Isiah Thomas.