James Dolan: GM Glen Sather safe

Updated: November 22, 2013, 12:00 PM ET
By Katie Strang | ESPNNewYork.com

According to New York Rangers owner James Dolan, general manager Glen Sather has a job as long as he wants it.

Dolan, who rarely speaks with the media, opened up in a Q and A with the New York Post about the Rangers, New York Knicks and Madison Square Garden that appeared in Friday's editions. Dolan, who also owns the Knicks, gave Sather a vote of confidence when asked about his future with the team.

Sather dismissed Rangers coach John Tortorella in May after the team's disappointing second-round exit from the playoffs. Under new coach Alain Vigneault, the Rangers stumbled out of the gate -- 3-7-0 in the first 10 games -- but have recovered to reach the .500 mark with an 11-11-0 record following Thursday night's 3-2 win against the Dallas Stars.

Dolan I think an owner needs to be present. When an owner is not present, that's when things tend to go awry.

-- James Dolan

"Ultimately it's got to be my call, but I have a tremendous amount of respect for Glen and still feel very lucky to have him," Dolan told the Post. "He has a wealth of knowledge and experience, and I don't know if there's anyone else in the NHL that's better than him, but he's got to be close to the top. His understanding of the game, his understanding of what makes a great player, and also he's pulled off some trades I looked at him and said, 'How did you do that?' As long as he'd like to stay, I'd like to have him."

Dolan also expressed his approval for Knicks coach Mike Woodson despite the team's 3-8 start, saying Woodson's players continue to believe in him.

"I have a lot of confidence in Woodson," Dolan said. "And one thing I can say about Mike is he has the respect of all the players. They all respect him. And he treats them fairly and relatively equally, and that's part of where the respect emanates from. And those are hard things to get [for] a coach. When a coach loses a team ... that's when a coach is kind of done."

The last time Dolan publicly addressed the Rangers was in an impromptu news conference during the 2011-12 season in which he proclaimed his confidence in the team's ability to win a Stanley Cup.

Does he still think the Rangers have that potential?

"Yeah, I do," he said. "This is going to be an interesting year because we have a new coach and a new system. I'm heartened by what I've seen, it looks like the team is picking up on the coach's strategy looks like they're starting to jell, [Rick] Nash is coming back [he returned Tuesday], we'll see how that impacts the team. I like what I see. So much of hockey is playoffs, just like basketball. We've made the playoffs a bunch of times now but we haven't ... the closest we came was conference finals."

The Rangers reached the Eastern Conference finals under Tortorella in 2012 but faltered under lofty expectations last spring, when they were ousted in five games by the Boston Bruins. That hasty exit prompted Tortorella's dismissal, though Dolan said he still thinks fondly of the team's former coach.

"I miss John Tortorella," he said. "I'd visit Torts before a game and we would trade barbs for 10 minutes. He'd tell me about his [lousy] cable TV service and I'd be sitting there saying, 'You can't clear the puck out of your zone, what the hell's wrong with you?' And he'd strike back and then play the game, and I miss that.

"I'm developing a relationship with Alain, and he's also a good guy, but Torts and I had a special relationship. It was fun for me. He banned me from the locker room for a while, all in fun. I miss that."

Dolan is often criticized for his heavy-handed management style -- one recent media report even suggested he had the Knicks City Dancers axed on a whim -- but he defended himself as an owner.

"I think I watch out for my fans. I try to give them a good product. I care for the teams. I'm emotionally involved and intellectually involved," Dolan said. "I think an owner needs to be present. When an owner is not present, that's when things tend to go awry. The players, the coaches, the fans know there's somebody in charge. They may not like what I'm doing, but it's much better than having nobody there. Nobody there just leaves you in despair."

Dolan also pledged his commitment to keeping the Garden where it is despite recent political efforts to have the iconic building relocated. The New York City Council voted in July to extend the arena's lease by 10 years but put the venue on notice to begin searching for a new home.

"It's a long time and we'll be paying, of course, close attention to it," Dolan said. "Moving this place would be like moving the Empire State Building."

Katie Strang covers the NHL for ESPN.com. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
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