Donnie Walsh: Why New York Knicks Fans Shouldn't Panic After His Departure

Moke Hamilton@@MokeHamiltonCorrespondent IIJune 4, 2011

If there is one thing you've got to love and respect about New York Knicks fans, it's their intense passion.

But if there's one thing you've got to hate and ridicule about New York Knicks fans, it's their intense passion.

Commissioner David Stern famously stated that he did not believe the New York Knicks were a "model of intelligent management" back in 2008. That, of course, was just prior to James Dolan making the smartest move he's made during his tenure as the head cheese of the Madison Square Garden.

Hiring Donnie Walsh.

Donnie Walsh was brought in to serve as the president and general manager of the New York Knicks back in April of 2008. From the moment he came in, Donnie proclaimed that his tenure would be characterized by fiscal responsibility and intelligent cap management.

Thankfully, it was.

New York Knicks fans aren't used to having capable management and leadership in the front office, and that's why losing Donnie Walsh—a classy, seasoned, intelligent basketball veteran—hurts so much.

Since the departure of Ernie Grunfeld back in 1999, the Knicks have slowly regressed into a laughingstock. So, it comes as no surprise that the news of Donnie's departure—especially after being told that an announcement of a return was a mere formality—stung Knicks fans like a Manny Pacquiao punch to the kidney.

But enough of the doom and gloom; Donnie's departure is NOT the end of the world.

While Donnie Walsh's tenure with the Knicks should be celebrated, the idea that he has made nothing but brilliant moves here might be a bit overblown.

Allan Houston—whom some are mentioning as a potential successor as general manager—probably could have made the cap clearing trades that enabled the Knicks to go after Amar'e Stoudemire, Raymond Felton and Timofey Mozgov. Remember, the Knicks dumped Jamal Crawford and Zach Randolph, literally, for pennies on the dollar. Since then, both have proven themselves to be integral cogs on winning basketball teams.

Donnie made two great draft picks in Toney Douglas (29th, 2009) and Landry Fields (39th, 2010), but one terrible one in Jordan Hill (8th, 2009) and one that still can't be said to have been a slam dunk in Danilo Gallinari (6th, 2008). While Gallinari has shown potential and flashes of brilliance in his young career, it's tough to argue that Eric Gordon (7th), Brook Lopez (10th) or Roy Hibbert (17th) would not have been better picks for the Knicks.

Anyway, the purpose here is not to diminish any of Donnie's accomplishments. The point is that the doomsday scenarios and fans who sound as though they plan on going to play in traffic because Donnie Walsh's tenure is over need to relax.

Thanks to him and his vision, the New York Knicks have two perennial All-Stars locked up for the next four seasons, and have a commitment to only one other player. That would be Renaldo Balkman, who is on the books for the next two seasons at $1.7M per.

The Knicks are in a much better place than they were when Donnie Walsh took the helm back in 2008 with All-Stars, building blocks, flexibility and a winning record.

While it is true that all of this can be undone with poor decision making and hasty signings, Knicks fans shouldn't expect that.

Glen Grunwald, the interim general manager, worked closely with Donnie Walsh over the past few years, and Allan Houston was being groomed by Donnie Walsh ultimately to one day take the reigns. To think that these three men don't share the same vision and philosophy as to how to build the Knicks into a winner probably isn't the wisest hypothesis. While it is true that neither is guaranteed to be promoted, each will continue to have a place at the table and a voice in terms of the direction of the franchise.

Recall the individuals that traveled in the Knicks' entourage to Cleveland to woo LeBron James: Jim Dolan, Donnie Walsh, Hank Ratner, Glen Grunwald and Allan Houston.

So, at the very least, Knicks fans should take a wait and see approach before pressing the panic button.

If Mark Warkentien, for example, is promoted to president, and Allan Houston or Grunwald to general manager, what's the fuss? Donnie Walsh will still be advising, and it's quite possible that Warkentien, Grunwald and Houston shared Donnie's vision as to how to build the Knicks into a contender.

So, again, Knicks fans, relax.

The continuity of Donnie's vision and his philosophy as to how to build this team into a winner is what's really important here. And his way—which has worked thus far—will probably be the way that the organization follows.

En route to preserving their salary cap space for the summer of 2010, the Knicks held back on acquiring two young point guards that could have helped them. Ramon Sessions was available and desperately wanted to play under Mike D'Antoni back in July 2009, but the Knicks rebuffed his agent's request for an annual salary of about $4 million per year.

Similarly, the Knicks were hot for Greivis Vasquez going into the 2010 NBA Draft, but elected to gamble on him falling to them in the second round of the draft because they were wary of his guaranteed salary eating away their precious salary cap space. After Vasquez was selected by the Memphis Grizzlies with the 28th overall pick, the Knicks settled on Andy Rautins, whom they selected with the 38th overall pick.

That's the Donnie Walsh way: foresight, patience, planning and improvising.

Knicks fans, at least at this point, should give the men that worked alongside Donnie some credit.

But what if none of the aforementioned are promoted? What if Jim Dolan hires someone from the outside? Indeed, it's possible.

You can say what you want about Jim Dolan, but what most that know anything about him believe is that his is a very loyal person—maybe even to a fault. Solely based on precedent, he's more likely to promote someone from within than to go outside of the organization. If the promotion does come from within, the CAA influence—Warkentien, Grunwald, Houston and Carmelo all have significant ties with the agency—will likely result in the Knicks not doing anything to trip up their potential cap space and shot at Chris Paul (or Deron Williams or Dwight Howard).

If the hire does come from outside, then maybe this should be reconsidered.

But what's wrong with waiting until then before declaring that the sky is falling?

Knicks fans, why not just focus on putting some positive energy into hoping that the Knicks have good fortune in next month's draft and get their hands on an impact player? Let the rest take care of itself.

Agreed, Donnie Walsh did a good job while he was here, but now that his tenure has come to a conclusion, keep looking forward.


Then again, there is that whole Isiah Thomas thing. Tell you what, bringing him back in any official capacity would be such a huge PR nightmare, I'm willing to bet that Jim Dolan would want to avoid it. While Isiah might still have his ear and advise him, that's really no different than what's been happening since Isiah was ousted a few years ago.

Even while Donnie was here, he couldn't overrule Jim Dolan, anyway. So again, what's the difference?

OK, OK, I get it. Knicks fans worst nightmare is Isiah being brought back in. That this is even possible is scary. Agreed.

Tell you what...If Isiah is brought back in, feel free to skip the panic button.

Don't pass go and don't collect $200; just meet me at the Brooklyn Bridge.

It's a perfect location because you can either decide to bring your swimming trunks or a Deron Williams jersey.

Until then, for your sake and your sanity, don't assume that the sky is falling just because Donnie Walsh is no longer with the organization. If the Portland Trailblazers can survive the defection of Kevin Pritchard, Knicks fans can survive the loss of Donnie Walsh.

The future is still bright for the New York Knicks and with or without Donnie Walsh in the front office, any hope of bringing a championship to Madison Square Garden rests solely on the broad and capable shoulders of Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire.

Sure, they need a supporting cast, but the Knicks have already given Amar'e Stoudemire what Patrick Ewing never had—an effective All-Star to play with.

So, at the very least, Knicks fans shouldn't begin panicking just yet.


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