After what has just happened with Donnie Walsh, why would any respectable general manager candidate want to come work for James Dolan's New York Knicks?
Yes, this team looks to be in a good position moving forward with Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony in tow for at least the next four seasons. However, with the shadow of Isiah Thomas looming over just about every decision made by the franchise's owner, I cannot see anyone of consequence wanting to take the top job.
Names like former Portland Trail Blazers executive Kevin Pritchard and former New Orleans Hornets GM Jeff Bowers have already been floated as possible replacements, but if I know James Dolan (and after 24 years as a Knicks fan, I think I do), he'll hire somebody with close ties to Creative Artists Agency. CAA represents Carmelo Anthony, Allan Houston, Mark Warkentien and John Calipari, among many others—including the man Dolan privately blamed Donnie Walsh for "losing," LeBron James.
What Dolan has managed to do is turn an attractive job opening into an unattractive one, simply by re-asserting his authority. When he hired Walsh at David Stern's suggestion after finally letting go of Isiah Thomas in 2008, it was with the promise of complete autonomy over all basketball decisions. While that did indeed seem to be the case for the first two years of Walsh's tenure as he slowly, surely cleared salary cap space for the summer of 2010 by trading nearly all of the terrible contracts absorbed by Thomas, it was not always true in the last year or so.
Last July and again this February, Dolan took a little of that autonomy away from the man who had resurrected his franchise from the dead. In July, he dispatched Isiah Thomas to Ohio to meet with LeBron and his reps in an unofficial capacity as a representative of the Knicks. After being unable to meet with LeBron and instead only securing a meeting with one of his many handlers, Thomas came back empty-handed.
In February, while Walsh was patiently waiting out new Denver Nuggets general manager Masai Ujiri in the hopes he would finally cave in and trade Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks at his price, Dolan again interfered. He flew to Los Angeles over the All-Star break and proceeded to give up much more than Walsh would have in the deal.
And now, while they were supposedly working on a two-year extension for Walsh, instead Dolan was insisting that Walsh take either a 40 percent pay-cut, cede complete autonomy of basketball decisions and be less forthcoming with the media than he already was. All three of these demands are patently ridiculous in and of themselves, considering the job Walsh had done in his three years in New York, but combined they put him over the top and led to him stepping down as president and general manager effective June 30.
If these were the conditions that Donnie Walsh was expected to work under, what can the next hire expect? No media contact at all? A bottom-of-the-barrel salary? That each of his decisions come with the Isiah stamp of approval? Why work in those conditions?
I entered this offseason excited about the direction the Knicks were moving. Two building blocks were in place with Amar'e and Carmelo, the salary cap position of the team allowed talent to be added in the summer of 2012 and Donnie Walsh was running the show. Now that James Dolan has essentially forced Donnie out of the spotlight and closer to retirement, I can't help but feel uneasy. The boat has been rocked, and we don't know where it's going next.