Posted by edsalwaysright on 3rd June 2011
Donnie Walsh, the man responsible for almost single-handedly bringing the New York Knicks back from a decade of irrelevance and the nightmare that was Isiah Thomas’ tenure as team president and then head coach, is leaving the team, and will vacate his position as president and general manager shortly after this month’s 2011 NBA Draft. Team owner James Dolan called the decision to not renew Walsh’s contract — scheduled to end in one month — as “mutual,” although suspicions are strong that Dolan and Walsh did not see eye-to-eye on a number of key issues and decisions, including the future of head coach Mike D’Antoni.
Walsh was instrumental in freeing the cap space that allowed the Knicks to pursue Amare Stoudemire and later sign Carmelo Anthony, qualifying the Knicks for the post-season for the first time since 2004 and leading the team to their first winning season since 2000. Walsh’s departure leaves some very big, and important shoes to fill, especially with what should be a busy summer of free agency coming up in 2012. Alan Houston’s name has been already thrown around as a possible replacement, as has newly retired head coach Phil Jackson’s (not happening), but it is highly unlikely for a decision to be made anytime soon. It is also highly unlikely — let us all pray — that Isiah Thomas will be in the running for the position, again. I say this in the hopes that this hiring will not only be made with player personnel (and coaching) decisions in mind, but also with the best interests of the team’s fan base and the direction the franchise is trying to go in. In other words, and now that the Knicks are finally relevant again and have (somewhat) regained the loyalty and trust of their fans, owner James Dolan should be very careful in who he hires to replace Walsh, and hopefully is able to put his personal biases and friendships aside.
Personally, I would like to see Alan Houston take Walsh’s place. He doesn’t have a ton of experience, but clearly knows the Knicks franchise and strikes me as an extremely smart guy. Most importantly, I would love to see Walsh stick around the team as a consultant (it has been reported that he will do so next season, although how much he stays involved in the day-to-day team affairs is very unclear) for the next couple of years. The worst things Knicks management can do right now is take a complete U-turn and undo all the good work Walsh has done in the last couple of years. Despite the fact that the Knicks had their first successful season in quite a while this year, there is no doubt that they are in an extremely vulnerable situation in terms of cap space and player options. They gave up what seems like 20 draft picks to get Carmelo, so they will have to be extremely smart if they hope to attract players in the next couple of years to build around Stoudemire and Anthony.
No matter what happens, Knicks fans should do one thing: buckle their seat-belts. But then again, I probably don’t have to remind anyone to do that. This is the Knicks we are talking about after all. If Isiah Thomas doesn’t get hired in the next 2 weeks that will be a huge victory in itself…