(Long Island, N.Y.) When the Knicks hired Donnie Walsh three years ago, he was brought in to do a number of things. First, the new president of basketball operations had to bring in a head coach that would be willing to have the same patience that he would have to show while the roster went through a complete overhaul.
He tabbed Mike D’Antoni to be that guy and then turned his attention towards ridding the team of the deadwood that was taking up the entire salary cap. Walsh did a masterful job of trading away all the albatross contracts Isiah Thomas saddled him with and even though they missed out on LeBron James, the Knicks were able to become a competitive playoff team that has a bright future.
Unfortunately Walsh will not be around – at least in a major role – to reap the benefits. The 70-year-old turned down a contract extension due to health reasons and a desire to spend more time with his family.
“Following a long series of discussions regarding his future role with the New York Knicks, Donnie Walsh and I have mutually agreed that he will leave his position as president, basketball operations of the Knicks at the end of June,” executive chairman James Dolan said in an official statement released by the organization. “Donnie will remain with the team as a consultant for the 2011-12 season.”
There was a lot of speculation when Walsh entered the 2010-11 campaign as a lame duck GM, and he kept telling the media that everything would be taken care of in June, when his contract expired. Would owner James Dolan push him out the door? Was Thomas waiting in the wings?
The way it appears now is that Dolan realized that Walsh was the best man for the job and sincerely wanted to keep him right where he was. Walsh has been dealing with a number of medical issues and that no doubt played a part in his deciding to step down.
Now the big decision has to come as to Walsh’s permanent replacement, which was also touched on by Dolan in the statement. “We will now begin an immediate search for a new president and general manager, but do not have a timetable for the decision,” he commented. “Glen Grunwald, the Knicks’ senior vice president, basketball operations, will serve as interim general manager, beginning in July, overseeing all player transactions.”
The last important call that Walsh will be making will occur at the upcoming NBA Draft. The Knicks are picking 17th and adding an impact player at that spot is not that likely, but an important role player can be found. In the Carmelo Anthony trade, the Knicks had to give up a number of players that Walsh had amassed for that reason and also to be retained. Because James went to Miami, Plan B had to be utilized and the trade route needed to be taken. Now depth is on the checklist with two superstars (Anthony and A’Mare Stoudemire) already in the fold.
So Walsh’s departing gift to the fans may not be as splashy as what he has done so far, but may pay nice dividends down the road.