The black inspiration and pioneer behind Knicks’ new GM


New Knicks GM Scott Perry has worked for four prior NBA franchises, but there’s one professional sports entity dearest to his heart.

According to a source, Perry is a proud member of Steeler Nation. Perry takes immense pride in his father, Lowell Perry, an NFL pioneer, who in 1957 became the first black assistant coach since World War II, with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Lowell, a wide receiver, was drafted by the Steelers in 1953, but his NFL career was cut short when he fractured his pelvis and dislocated his left hip after a hard hit by former Giants defensive tackle Rosey Grier.

Perry’s NBA managerial career is partly in honor of his father, who died 16 years ago, once calling him “a quiet and unsung’’ pioneer.

New Knicks president Steve Mills and Perry have become the only black managerial tandem in the NBA. Perry invoked his father a couple of times during Monday’s introductory press conference, calling it “a special deep moment for me’’ because of Lowell Perry’s journey; he wasn’t allowed to stay in the Steelers hotel before a preseason game in Jacksonville.

“That’s not something lost on me,’’ Perry said. “I mentioned in my opening about my dad. His history in the game and that being groundbreaking. At the end of the day, we want to be recognized for the quality of individuals we are and what type of job we’ll do to produce a winner in New York regardless of race. But I also would be remiss not to say I don’t understand the gravity of that and embrace the gravity of that. Hopefully if we’re successful it will open the doors for other young, aspiring African-Americans who want to have these jobs.”

Mills is on the NBA’s Global Improvement Council, which, he says, “finds diverse opportunities at every level of the game.’’

“It’s ironic for me,’’ Mills said. “The irony is it wasn’t until I read a report we were the first or only African-American duo. I didn’t realize that when we went through the hiring process.”

They are not the NBA’s first black management duo. When Michael Jordan first ran the Wizards, his GM was Wes Unseld, then Rod Higgins.

“There are a lot of the pioneers when you talk about Black History Month,” Scott Perry told The Undefeated recently. “Dr. Martin Luther King is celebrated, obviously and rightfully so. But there were so many quiet and unsung heroes in the black community. I’m proud that [Lowell] was one of them.’’

Perry has the “freedom’’ to reevaluate the Knicks front-office staff, but it is already one of the most diverse in the NBA. Personnel men Allan Houston, also the Westchester GM, Mark Hughes, Clarence Gaines Jr., Walker Russell and Makhtar Ndiaye are black.

Because Gaines, the former Bulls scout, is so closely tied to departed Phil Jackson and sought players only adaptable to the triangle, his situation seems most uncertain. An option for Perry could be to bring in George David to run the college-scouting department. David worked for more than 10 years with Perry in Detroit and is now a player recruiter for the Wasserman Agency.

“I feel really good about a lot of the people we have working for us,’’ Mills said Monday. “But we also know there’s room for us to grow and get better if we want to be a first-class organization, and Scott will have the freedom to meet with everyone in our organization. Where he sees there’s opportunities to bring new people into the organization, he has the flexibility to do that, and we’ll work as a tandem in making sure that we have a first-class operation.”