Blog Entry

Walsh's departure means dark days back for Knicks

Posted on: June 3, 2011 12:35 pm
Edited on: June 3, 2011 7:38 pm
Donnie Walsh came to New York determined to restore honor to the Knicks and steer them off a decade-long path of destruction toward one with the promise of success.

He will not get to finish the job. The theater of the absurd that is Madison Square Garden swallowed up one of the gentlemen of the sport Friday, sent one of the most respected basketball men in history fleeing for the exits.

The news Friday that Walsh will step down from his post as team president when his contract expires June 30 is a devastating blow to the franchise that he nearly singlehandedly resurrected. Gone is the man who cleared nearly $30 million in cap space, built a foundation around two superstar players, invited legends from the past back under the spotlight of the Garden, and gave Knicks fans hope that the days of dysfunction were over.

The story behind Walsh’s quiet negotiations for a new contract in recent months made Friday’s news all the more disturbing. Walsh, 70, was not seeking multiple years or millions at this stage of his basketball life. He was seeking autonomy over basketball decisions – the same autonomy that Garden chairman James Dolan publicly promised he would have when he was introduced in the spring of 2008 as the man who would save the Knicks from themselves.

"The more we talked about it, the more I realized I didn't want a multi-year deal," Walsh said. "I can understand why he'd want that. I just realized I probably wasn't the guy to go forward with."

As recently as midweek, sources said Walsh's situation was either going to result in a two-year extension -- possibly with a team option for a third year -- or Walsh moving back to Indiana, though not necessarily retiring. Dolan’s statement Friday described Walsh’s decision to leave as mutual, while Walsh said he had lost the "energy" required to do the job.

Walsh will stay on as a consultant and head up the search for his replacement, which immediately could focus on the two best candidates not tied to teams: former Trail Blazers executive Kevin Pritchard and former Hornets GM Jeff Bower. Former Cavs GM and current Spurs executive Danny Ferry also is expected to be considered, and a name to watch is Timberwolves assistant GM Tony Ronzone, whose strong international presence and close relationships with the stars of Team USA could be appealing to Dolan. Ronzone also has a working relationship with Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni through USA Basketball. D'Antoni has one year left on his contract.

Former Nuggets GM Mark Warkentien, whose consulting contract with the Knicks expires June 30, has to be considered a viable candidate.

Besides who will replace Walsh, the key issue hovering over this stunning development is what assurances he was seeking that he didn’t receive. Money was "never a big issue" for Walsh in the months-long discussions about his future, said a person familiar with the negotiations. In fact, despite widespread reports that Dolan insisted on a 40 percent pay cut for Walsh, the person familiar with the matter said it was Walsh who volunteered to take a substantial pay cut next season in anticipation of a lockout. His concern, the person said, was making sure the rest of the front-office staff -- whose contracts also expire June 30 -- would be taken care of during the work stoppage. Glen Grunwald, the senior vice president of basketball operations, will stay with the team as interim GM during the search for Walsh's replacement.

Throughout Walsh’s discussions with Dolan about his future, it was clear from multiple sources with knowledge of the talks that Walsh would not stay with the Knicks if A) he would not have final say over basketball decisions, or B) there was a chance he could be overruled by the Garden’s many agenda-driven outside influences. The most sinister of those was former team president Isiah Thomas, who remains in close communication with Dolan and in the MSG chairman’s circle of trust – despite running the franchise into the ground and turning the Knicks into a league-wide embarrassment.

“They were a joke for six years,” a rival team executive said Friday. “What Donnie has done for that organization, you’ve got to be kidding me. Come on. The whole world has paid attention to basketball in New York because of the guy – in a positive way.”

Thomas, whose attempted hiring as a consultant by Dolan last summer was nixed by league rules forbidding an NCAA coach to serve in such a role, is not coming back to run the Knicks, sources maintain. But he continues to have Dolan's ear, not to mention the desire to return to the Garden. And while Walsh dismissed the notion that Thomas had anything to do with his decision to leave, the idea of Thomas back-channeling decisions with Dolan would not be palatable to any executive of Walsh's experience and track record.

"The whole thing was going to come down to whether he was going to have autonomy," said a person with knowledge of the discussions. "That’s what this was about."

Walsh's replacement faces the challenging task of adding pieces to complement Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, the two stars Walsh landed with the cap space he spent 2 1-2 years demolishing. But Stoudemire and Anthony will combine to make $36.7 million next season; add Chauncey Billups' $14.2 million, and that figure rises to $50.9 million for three players. That's more than Miami's Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are scheduled to make next season, leaving the Knicks the ability to add only minimum-salaried players or those who'd except the mid-level exception -- if there is such a thing in the new collective bargaining agreement. And with the haul of assets Walsh had to give up to land Anthony, the Knicks have few short-term assets to offer in trades aimed at filling their needs for a defensive-minded big man, elite shooting guard, and eventual replacement at point guard for Billups.

That predicament, viewed through the prism of Walsh's departure, only fuels speculation that Dolan hijacked the Anthony trade talks and ordered Walsh to make a trade he didn't want to make -- not at that price, anyway. Walsh again deflected that notion Friday, but a person with knowledge of the trade talks between New York and Denver said Dolan played a prominent role in the deal.

"Donnie had a good hold of it, but I think Dolan had the intentions," the person said. "Dolan wanted Melo at all costs. It was 100 percent Dolan who was the one with an all-costs Melo type thing. And Donnie was saying, 'This would be a good trade, but let’s do it the right way."

He did everything the right way in three years rebuilding the Knicks, a job that now goes to someone else to finish.

Since: Feb 4, 2011
Posted on: June 9, 2011 5:21 am

Walsh's departure means dark days back for Knicks

With Melo and Amare as our foundation I don't really see any dark days ahead. We should be in the playoffs every year for awhile as for winning rings thats another story, we need some defense, we defenitley need a big man, i think if we get that we will be looking pretty good.

Since: Jul 26, 2007
Posted on: June 4, 2011 2:54 pm

Walsh's departure means dark days back for Knicks

AES, my money is on the Easter Bunny for SG.  I hear he has some serious hops.

Since: Jul 26, 2007
Posted on: June 4, 2011 2:51 pm

Walsh's departure means dark days back for Knicks

BannedPigeosn said--

"Why do you think Doc Rivers won a ring his first year with the Big Three? Because he preaches defense, Spoelstra preaches defense. "

To the best of my knowledge, Spoelstra hasn't won a title yet.  i think he will, because I don't think there's any way David Stern allows Mark Cuban's team to win it, but it hasn't happened yet.  At least wait until AFTER Stern has one of his minions talk to the refs, huh?  And even if the Heat (stupid name--what is a "Heat"?) win it, Spoelstra won't get any credit, it'll all be Big Three and Patty Riley.  

Since: Sep 18, 2006
Posted on: June 4, 2011 12:45 pm

Walsh's departure means dark days back for Knicks

Heh heh -- PHENOMINAL POST, AES -- many thanks for the laugh.

Jesus or Santa Claus...I'll be plagiarizing this one for sure!

Since: Feb 5, 2007
Posted on: June 4, 2011 11:56 am

Walsh's departure means dark days back for Knicks

Donnie Walsh was an outstanding NBA executive who built the Indiana Pacers into a contender and brought the fans back to MSA.  No one in Indiana will ever forget the multiple playoff seasons and the 2005 NBA Finals vs the Lakers, the magic of Donnie Walsh.  Our franchise faltering was tied to the hiring of Larry Bird as the President.  Player personnel decisions by Bird created a horrendous situation in Indpls and it remains as he is still in control today. We watched is dismay when he was hired in NY and began to work his magic with the Knicks.  When will NBA owners learn that former NBA stars who can dribble, shoot and lead on the basketball floor cannot necessarily lead in the front office.  We had our stint with Isiah Thomas as well as a coach and a consultant, we are an epitimey of the experiment that went wrong.  One would only hope some NBA owners will learn that having a previous NBA star lead your franchise only puts people in the seats in the short term.  After that, it is a slippery slope downhill.

Indiana is fortunate to have Donnie Walsh coming back to Indiana even if it is to retire and spend time with his family. 

Since: Sep 5, 2006
Posted on: June 4, 2011 11:43 am

Walsh's departure means dark days back for Knicks

You'd think insane Knick fans would have learned their lesson afer two years of beating their chests about LeBron and Wade coming to the Garden. Nope. The lunacy continues, only now it involves Chris Paul or Dwight Howard. Or, Paul amd Dwight Howard. Here we go again. This is what Knick fans swear their lineup will look like in 2012, even though it will set the new CBA on its ear and can never, ever, ever, never, ever possibly happen:
PG - Paul
SG - Either Jesus or Santa Claus. They're still deciding.
SF - Anthony
PF - Stoudemire
C - Howard
Head coach - Phil Jackson

Isn't that priceless? Bless their loony little hearts. Here is what their lineup actually will look like in 2012:
PG - crap
SG - crap
SF - Anthony
PF - Stoudemire (assuming his two bad knees and one bad eye hold up, which is far from certain with him. Micrrofracture X 2 isn't exactly a hangnail)
C - crap
Head coach - not D'Antoni. I'll say Mark Jackson.

Since: Apr 27, 2011
Posted on: June 4, 2011 11:28 am
This comment has been removed.

Post Deleted by Administrator

Since: May 12, 2008
Posted on: June 4, 2011 9:28 am

Walsh's departure means dark days back for Knicks

It's ok Knick fans Chris Paul an Dwight Howard will sign for the min and play for the Knicks!!!!

Since: Nov 7, 2010
Posted on: June 4, 2011 8:19 am

Walsh's departure means dark days back for Knicks

2012 Paul in....Billups out(but if you want to win in playoff.or when the game is on the line..Billups better than Stoud or Melo)
with these 3 guys...put around 6/7 players dedicated to defense and shooting with opponent players always 2meter far

Since: Aug 16, 2006
Posted on: June 4, 2011 8:15 am

Walsh's departure means dark days back for Knicks

Thenks for the information, The Eugene.  I don't live in Jersey anymore so it's been a while since I've heard Beningo and Roberts trashing the Knicks organization.  Once again, Dolan is a fool.  I don't particularly care for the Knicks, but it's sad to see a once proud organization wallowing because the owner thinks he's playing with his toys.  The Knicks definitely had some nice pieces and a little cap space for the '12 free agent run.  Dolan has essentially squashed those chances.  It's too bad because, before this season, it looked like Dolan was finally starting to get it.

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