MANHATTAN — Madison Square Garden owner James Dolan has fired his top security chief in the wake of this week's clash between Knicks legend Charles Oakley and arena security personnel during a nationally televised game, DNAinfo New York has learned.
Frank Benedetto, the senior vice president for security at the Madison Square Garden Company, was fired Friday morning, a source said.
The move comes two days after Oakley became embroiled in a pushing and shoving match with security personnel just a few rows behind Dolan's courtside seats and was hauled off and arrested by the NYPD in front of TV cameras. Backlash from Knicks fans and NBA players shocked at Oakley's treatment was swift and fierce.
"We don't comment on employees that have left the company," Madison Square Garden Company spokesman Barry Watkins said Friday.
The beloved former power forward, who played with the team for 10 years during the 1990s, got into the scuffle as he went to his seat during a game Wednesday between the Knicks and the Los Angeles Clippers.
The incident caused a temporary stop in the game as the players watched a team of security confront Oakley and eventually haul him down the stairs and pin him down to the ground.
Oakley was led out in handcuffs and charged with three misdemeanors before being released later that evening.
MSG management insisted that Oakley arrived to the game in an agitated state and began cursing at Dolan, with whom he has a stormy relationship over Oakley's belief that Dolan has disrespected him for years.
Oakley said he did nothing to prompt security personnel to confront him.
Dolan has an ongoing feud with Oakley, who was briefly denied admission to a game last year before ultimately being allowed inside. Oakley also told reporters that MSG security insisted on following him around at games long before Benedetto was hired last August.
Benedetto, who was at Wednesday's game and witnessed the fiasco, took over the top security post last August after serving as a top U.S. Secret Service official who was credited with helping oversee the safety of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama while serving as Assistant Special Agent in Charge of Presidential Protection.
He was also lauded for handling security for the 2012 NATO Summit in Chicago, as well as the 2013 and 2014 Chicago Marathon, according to his LinkedIn account.
Sources say he moved from Chicago to the Big Apple not long after MSG released most of its veteran senior security staff, which included officials with years of experience and historical knowledge, including the depth of the feud between Dolan and Oakley.
Benedetto could not immediately be reached for comment.
DNAinfo New York previously reported on the history of bad blood between Oakley and Dolan.
Oakley has lobbied for years to be a goodwill ambassador for the team, like other Knicks greats such as John Starks and Allan Houston, but has been rebuffed, sources said.
Last year, Oakley tried to attend a game at the Garden with a ticket and tried to enter the arena through the employees' entrance, but Garden security workers stopped him and called to their managers to see if they should allow him to enter, sources said.
The guards were initially told not to let him in by Garden management, sources noted, but he was eventually allowed into the stadium. Oakley has attended other games at Madison Square Garden without incident.
Late Friday, Dolan went on the Michael Kay show and explained that the incident "was the last straw" for Benedetto.
The MSG owner also said Oakley created a disturbance from the moment he entered the Garden that night and should have been headed off before he got to his seat.
Dolan said he would be banned until he could get his anger and other issues under control.