Knicks give Walsh permission to speak to other teams

NEW YORK -- Donnie Walsh, who rebuilt the Knicks' roster and battered image before stepping aside as team president last June, has received permission from the organization to speak with other teams about an executive position, his agent told CBSSports.com Friday.

Walsh, 71, has a contract with the Knicks in his role as consultant that expires June 30. The widely respected executive wants to work again and is expected to begin exploring opportunities immediately.

"Donnie's very interested in continuing to work on a full-time basis," Walsh's agent, Steve Kauffman, told CBSSports.com.

The Portland Trail Blazers already have begun yet another GM search, and it is believed that Walsh will explore that situation first since the job is known to be open. If Larry Bird steps down as Pacers president after the season, there are indications that owner Herb Simon -- a longtime friend and proponent of Walsh -- would strongly consider a reunion.

Walsh, a strict follower of protocol, would not be comfortable speaking with teams about positions until they are officially open, sources said. However, among the teams that could wind up as landing spots for Walsh are the Wizards, who could make significant organizational changes this summer; and the Magic, who are in obvious tumult with the recent spectacle involving coach Stan Van Gundy and superstar Dwight Howard. In addition to Van Gundy's departure after the season being all but assured, the Magic could be on the hunt for significant front office additions as well, sources said. The presence of a long-time pro like Walsh would send a clear message to Howard that the team's culture was changing for the better.

The permission granted to Walsh came directly from Madison Square Garden chairman James L. Dolan, and it was largely a formality, given the respect Walsh commands and the limited consulting role he occupied with the team. It also was a coincidence that the news came on the same day that Walsh's predecessor as Knicks president, Isiah Thomas, was fired as coach of Florida International University. Kauffman had been working for several days to secure official permission from the Knicks and was unaware Friday of Thomas' situation.

Walsh overcame several health challenges during his tenure with the Knicks, but multiple people close to the respected executive have said recently that Walsh is in good health and good spirits and is eager to work again.

"He's feeling great and is sharper than ever," a longtime Walsh friend told me recently.

In addition to his own challenges, which included a bout with cancer and hip-replacement surgery, Walsh successfully conquered the daunting task of cleaning up a decade of ineptitude at the Garden. He cleared tens of millions in cap space, and while he failed to persuade LeBron James and/or Dwyane Wade to join the Knicks as free agents in 2010, Walsh brought Amar'e Stoudemire to New York in a move that made the franchise relevant again.

In February 2011, the Knicks acquired Carmelo Anthony from the Nuggets in a massive trade that sent multiple starters, rotation players and draft picks to Denver. Those familiar with the situation believe Dolan gave up more for Anthony than Walsh wanted to -- or believed he had to, since Anthony was determined to wind up in New York even if he had to go as a free agent after the season. In June, Walsh stepped aside as team president and into a consulting role in which interim GM Glen Grunwald and other top basketball staffers have continued to seek his advice by phone on roster decisions.

Walsh maintains residences in Indiana and New York and likely would seek to hire a day-to-day general manager to serve under him as team president if he is able to find the right opportunity. Among those on his short list in New York had Dolan allowed him to hire a day-to-day GM were former Hornets executive Jeff Bower, former Warriors executive Chris Mullin and Pete D'Alessandro, the Nuggets' cap guru who was integral to the mechanics of the Anthony deal last season.
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