NEW YORK – In a move that undoubtedly has roots in the pursuit of Carmelo Anthony(notes), New York Knicks president Donnie Walsh has reached an agreement with former Denver Nuggets general manager Mark Warkentien to join the Knicks as a high-level consultant, league sources told Yahoo! Sports on Sunday.
The hiring of Warkentien is expected to be a prelude to a larger and more specific front-office role in the future, but that’s still an issue to be worked out. As the Knicks work to acquire Anthony through a trade this season or in free agency this summer, there’s no minimizing Warkentien’s institutional knowledge of the Nuggets organization and ownership, as well as a strong relationship with Anthony.
Warkentien, the NBA’s 2009 Executive of the Year, will also work close with Walsh on college and pro personnel evaluation.
Walsh had difficulty selling Garden ownership on hiring a full-fledged deputy in recent years – he’s considered candidates such as Warkentien and Chris Mullin – but finally cleared the way to get Warkentien hired in the consultant’s role.
A contract has been drawn, but is still awaiting signatures, sources said.
Walsh has an option on his contract that Knicks owner James Dolan needs to pick up by April 1. Glen Grunwald and Allan Houston(notes) are currently Walsh's top two officials in the front office. Walsh has expressed a desire to finish the full reclamation project with New York, and most expect the option to be a formality considering the rejuvenation of the franchise after Walsh signed free agents Amar’e Stoudemire(notes) and Raymond Felton(notes).
Warkentien was part of a complicated structure with the Nuggets that included Rex Chapman and Brett Bearup. He made several key moves that pushed the Nuggets into the Western Conference finals in 2009, including the Chauncey Billups(notes) trade and several complementary signings and deals. Denver owner Stan Kroenke didn’t renew Warkentien’s contract in the spring of 2010, choosing to elevate his son, Josh, and hire Toronto Raptors assistant GM Masai Ujiri, to run the franchise.
League sources said that upon hearing of Warkentien’s impending hire in New York, Ujiri told members of his Denver front-office and scouting staffs – apparently in a half-joking manner – that they won’t be allowed to join Warkentien in New York.
Another factor for Walsh is the ongoing NBA investigation into a Yahoo! Sports report of illegal predraft workouts and contact with college underclassmen by East Coast scouting director Rodney Heard. The NBA has hired a law firm to investigate the charges, which included several players and witnesses detailing serious rules violations.
Pending the results of the investigation, the Knicks could face substantial fines and the possible loss of future draft picks. If Heard loses his job with the Knicks, West Coast scout Mark Hughes, who was largely responsible for the drafting of second-round gem Landry Fields(notes), is expected to move into a more prominent role in the Knicks' front office. The ability to find talent outside the draft – such as Europe, the Development League and undrafted college players – has been a strength of Warkentien over his two decades in NBA front offices.
- Mark Warkentien
- Donnie Walsh