June 03, 2011
The New York Knicks announced Friday that they have parted ways with personnel boss Donnie Walsh, in a move that will only make sense to Knicks owner James Dolan. All Walsh did in his New York tenure was put the Knicks through the rebuilding process that the last three general managers swore would not appeal to Knick fans. Walsh's process overwhelmingly appealed to Knick fans, because they're smarter than the Knick owners, and it eventually resulted in the team's first playoff appearance in seven years.
And now, for whatever reason, Walsh has been let go. Sure, he'll be listed as a "consultant," but those designations rarely mean anything. The man who put together the best Knick team that we've seen in over a decade has been told to hit the bricks, and there's no real basketball-based rhyme or reason as to why. Walsh has had his health problems as of late, but the guy could build a 50-win team without having to get up from his seat.
All this does, again, is point to the meddling nature of Knicks owner James Dolan. All this does, again, is shove New York and their Knicks two steps backwards.
Remember that Walsh didn't want to initiate the deal that ended up sending Carmelo Anthony(notes) to New York for just about every asset the Knicks had in place. Isiah Thomas, working unofficially, championed that conquest, and Dolan gladly signed off on it. Anthony is a brilliant offensive player, and the Knicks needed someone like him at the small forward spot, but the price to obtain his services was clearly too high. Walsh knew this, and Dolan did not. Isiah never knows anything, so to speak, and now the Knicks are bereft of assets in the same way they were back in 2004, after Thomas pulled just about the same move for Stephon Marbury(notes).
We've no idea who takes over from here, but does it matter any? The Knicks made the postseason this year and have two fabulous offensive players in Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire(notes), but those two have a limited supporting cast, they were the only team to be swept out of the playoffs this year, all the team's draft picks have been spent, and there's a good chance Anthony and Stoudemire's salaries take up 80 percent of the team's salary cap once the next collective bargaining agreement rolls around.
The first guess is that Walsh didn't want to be a part of that new reality, foisted on him by the Anthony trade. But he's still going to be hanging around, ostensibly, so it's not as if he's thrown his hands in the air and walked away. Walsh obviously wanted to do right by his hometown team, and the ability to do so has been taken away from him.
And the ability to make the final call, apparently, was never his. That's nothing new, among NBA teams, and that shouldn't be an issue because the owner, lest we forget, writes the checks. But for the Knicks it takes on an altogether stronger tone.
Because Dolan's meddling always meant that his buddy Isiah was whispering in his ear, unlike some owners who have the (often misguided) strength to call their own shots. This early in the reaction, we have no idea if Dolan is going to bring Thomas back in any official form, but what's the point? Thomas runs that team. He was the guiding force in the biggest decision that team has made in years, and that's likely to continue.
Sorry, New York. You deserve better. Hell, Salem back in 1692 deserved better than this.
UPDATE: Frank Isola is reporting that James Dolan asked Donnie Walsh to take a 40 percent pay cut. A really solid move considering that Walsh cleared something like $120 million in salary commitments off of New York's payroll while assembling a team that set viewership records for Dolan's network, along with handing Dolan's coffers sold out arenas and four games' worth of playoff revenue.
So, yes. James Dolan is still a twerp.