Last Friday I was running a few errands and ESPN broke the news that New York Knicks Team President, Donnie Walsh, would not be returning next season. I almost crashed into the car in front of me. You might have questioned some of his moves but no one can argue that this man has this team moving in the right direction and changed the perception of the organization. Now the only question is why in God’s name did the New York Knicks allow Donnie Walsh to walk out the door and who will replace him?
Most Knicks fans, like yours truly, were furious when news came out about Walsh’s departure. Now this is not to say that the man had the Midas Touch. He did passed on Eric Gordon in favor of Danilo Gallinari in 2008 and Brandon Jennings in favor of Jordan Hill in 2009. As much as I feel that Gallinari will be a quality NBA player in near future, the addition of either Gordon or Jennings would have expedited the Knicks turnaround. Then there is selection Mike D’Antoni as the head coach when Tom Tibedou was available.
New York sports teams are normally synonymous with the word defense and that word is not part of D’Antoni’s vocabulary. At first I did not like the choice but after attending his introductory press conference, I thought that D’Antoni could be a good fit for some reason. In all fairness to D’Antoni he has not been dealt a fair deck. The Knicks roster has been a revolving door during the embattled coach’s reign. Now D’Antoni is officially on the clock to show what he can do with two legit superstars in Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire for a full season.
It was a pipe dream three years ago to think that the Knicks would land two bonafide superstars this soon especially considering what Walsh inherited. Former Team President Isiah Thomas left this organization in chaos on and off the court. Walsh had to deal with a talented team with horrible chemistry and the residual effect of the cloud that the Anocha Brown Sanders’ wrongful termination and sexual harassment law suit casted over the entire organization.
Walsh’s first line of business was to clear cap space. By trading away most of the talented players like Jamal Crawford, Zach Randolph and David Lee, Walsh put the Knicks in position to have gone after one or two of the prize free agents this past summer including LeBron James. Unfortunately, James decided to take his talents to South Beach but Anthony and Stoudemere should not be considered some poor consolation.
In the process of working his cap space magic, he also brought a sense of dignity back to the Garden just by his sheer presence. No longer was that air anxiety that permeated over the Garden. For the last three years, MSG has been a more peaceful place and that can be contributed to Walsh.
Rumors have it that Knick’s Owner James Dolan was furious that Walsh did not land James and other rumors claim that Walsh did not appreciate Dolan getting involved with the Anthony trade negotiation. Walsh, along with most folks in the know, felt that the Knicks gave up too much for Anthony and Dolan’s involvement was the reason why.
Allegedly, and rightfully so, Walsh wanted total autonomy and Dolan was not willing to give it to him. Now that Walsh is out of the picture, who will Dolan tab to be the next GM and/or Team President?
Some feel Dolan will stay in house a name President of MSG Sports Scott O’Neil or Vice President of Basketball Operations Glen Grunwald. Then there is the Thomas factor. There are those who feel that the current Florida International University Head Basketball Coach never left the Knicks inner circle. There is no secret that Dolan worships the ground that Thomas walks on. Thomas told ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith that he has no interest in becoming the Knicks next GM and that he is happy at FIU. However he also referred to the Knicks as “Us” during the same interview. It may have been a Freudian Slip but intriguing nevertheless. One more thing, Grunwald and Thomas have been good friends since high school. Do not be surprised to see Thomas back at 33rd Street and 7th Avenue if Grunwald gets the job.
You can debate whether Walsh has been effective during his tenure as the Team President but no one can debate the impact this man had on the franchise. He elevated the franchise back to respectability emerging from the muck and mire of the Thomas era. He walked into a disaster and left the organization with a sense of hope. The Knicks appear to be on their way to becoming one of the relevant teams in the League. It is a shame that Walsh will not be around to complete the mission he started.