With all that the Knicks front office has been handling the last couple of months and culminating weeks, the "What’s next with Walsh" situation has been put on the back burner. Donnie Walsh, Knicks President of Basketball Operations, is in the last year of a three-year contract with New York.
His stint has been most successful.
But don't expect any word on Walsh's future with the team until definitely after the trade deadline and probably not until near April 30, the deadline for the organization to exercise a one-year option on Walsh for 2011-12.
That will leave two months for James Dolan, Madison Square Garden boardmembers and fans to ponder Walsh's fate: exercise the option, give Walsh an extension now or say "sayonara."
Hopefully, the Knicks will still be playing by the time of the deadline (their final regular season game is April 13). If that’s the case, maybe Dolan and the organization, rather than distract, will just flip the switch on the option and worry about further talks after next season.
If the option is not exercised, Walsh's contract and time with the Knicks will come to an end on June 30th unless he's granted a new deal.
Either way, Donnie Walsh deserves to continue at the helm. Here’s 10 reasons why:
The Indiana Pacers were in the NBA 10 years and had made the playoffs just once when Donnie Walsh came in as General Manager in 1986. The Pacers grabbed a postseason berth that year and 16 of the next 21. They made it to the NBA Finals their first and only time under Walsh in 2000.
Walsh is famous for selecting Reggie Miller over favorite Steve Alford in the 1987 draft. Remember Steve Alford? Didn’t think so.
Walsh also brought in Larry Brown in 1993, who took the Pacers to two consecutive Eastern Conference finals in his first two years as coach and consecutive 52-30 records in his second two.
After Brown was dispatched following the 1996-97 season, Walsh hired Larry Bird as his replacement. Three years later, the Pacers were in the Finals—in a year they went 56-26.
Which is what the Knicks need.
Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan hasn’t spoken directly to the media in years and the Knicks have a strict corporate policy on media communications requiring permissions and PR pros—no shooting from the hip for sure.
Or at least they did. Apparently, in Walsh’s original contract negotiations, there was an agreement to give him a longer leash than usual when stepping up to the mic. Walsh had a history of being available to and friendly with the press before coming to New York, and apparently the Knicks let him continue relatively unfettered.
After five years of Knicks fans agonizingly trying to figure out "What the hell are Dolan and the Knicks [and Isiah] doing?" they finally have someone that actually will tell them.
Countless star athletes and executives have been unable to hack the Big Apple. Walsh is a natural.
He was born in New York City in 1941 and raised in the Bronx, where he attended Fordham Prep (and made first-team all-city in basketball). He's a fan.
As a pre-teen, he saw Hall of Famers Dick McGuire and Harry Gallatin at the Garden and watched his Knicks make the Finals three years in a row (1951-1953).
After the multiple public relations black eyes provided by Isiah Thomas, the Knicks needed a new front office face.
Walsh is a classy family man and is well respected around the league by players, executives and the media.
He should be able to leverage this political capital over the next few years and flex his influence with David Stern, the NBA and other team owners and executives. The same can not be said of Thomas.
In what has turned out to be a master stroke, Walsh quickly picked up the pieces after the LeBron James pursuit fell apart and grabbed the next best thing on the market: Amar'e Stoudemire.
The five year $100 million deal left cap room for future improvements, too.
Stoudemire has outperformed every expectation, having a career year, looking at potential personal bests in all major offensive and defensive categories.
Is anyone still unaware of the impact Amar'e Stoudemire has had on the Knicks and New York City?
One other Walsh move deserves a specific mention, and following the Carmelo Anthony trade, it takes on even more significance.
Fan favorite Landry Fields, drafted with the 39th pick, will need to rise to the occasion now that three regular starters have been sent packing for Denver. Suddenly, the rookie is a "veteran" of sorts, having played the second most minutes as a Knick on the team.
And he can do it all. And will for years to come as the Knicks build for both short-term and long.
But it wasn't just Stoudemire and Fields; Walsh brought in other solid players in a total team overhaul (Felton, Turiaf, Gallinari, Mozgov, Douglas, Williams, Carter) and...
When Donnie Walsh came to the Knicks, he was faced with an economic crisis and a bunch of terrible players—all put in place (every single player, mind you) by Isiah Thomas.
Walsh proceeded to make moves before the ink was dry on his contract. His mission was to clear out cap space and he succeeded.
He dumped Zach Randolph's huge contract and Jamal Crawford's pretty big one (and Eddy Curry's ridiculous one with the Melo trade). In fact, with Wilson Chandler going to the Nuggets, there is not one single Knick left on the team from the year before Walsh came (2007-08).*
Talk about cleaning house—and that house was messy, like that show Hoarders.
* Renaldo Balkman was reacquired in the Carmelo Anthony trade.
...And Chauncey Billups (No. 4).
Until further notice (and unless the Isiah rumors are proven), Donnie Walsh, behind James Dolan, was responsible for pulling off the Carmelo Anthony trade.
Less than 24 hours after the trade went down, Walsh called in to the Mike Francesa show on WFAN in New York:
Mike Francesa: "There's this feeling that you were pushed aside and Dolan took over and you were cut out of this negotiation. Is that accurate?"
Donnie Walsh: "That's absolutely untrue...I've been talking to Jim Dolan for the whole time this Carmelo Anthony thing has been going on...and strategizing how we can get him and what did I think of it and who would I give up for him and it's been a constantly evolving thing...And so you come to the day of confrontation when [Dolan asked] 'Do you really want to give this up for [Anthony] and Chauncey Billups?' and I came back 'Yeah, I think we should do this because you're not going to get this opportunity again.'"
And hopefully will remain a "voice of reason" between lovebirds Isiah and Dolan, for the sake of the team.
I'm not sure what incriminating photos Isiah Thomas has on Jim Dolan or where they hid the body, but Thomas sure has some unusual influence considering his track record (bringing a historic franchise down to the depths of its history).
Thankfully it appears that Walsh has gained some stronger influence thanks to his performance, and has even blocked some behind the scenes Thomas moves. If it turns out that Isiah had anything to do with the Anthony trade, though, that would be quite the coup and one unwanted by an unruly populace.
Before Walsh came on board with the Knicks in 2008, they had made the postseason once in seven years. They're looking to have they're first winning season in 10 years.
Better than that though, in just two full seasons, with all of the moves he has made, Walsh has turned the once defunct Knicks into serious playoff, conference-title and, now with Anthony, maybe even NBA-title contenders. The Knicks grace the playoff picture and the back pages of the New York tabloids once again.
Walsh deserves to taste the fruits of his labor, good or bad. Let him finish the job.
He unquestionably deserves the option. I vote for an extension on top of that right now. Most likely, it will be wait and see: option picked up and negotiations come April 2012. That might even work in Walsh's favor if the Knicks get something done the next two years.