Walsh Only The First Step

Forgive Knicks fans if they get excited about hiring Donnie Walsh as Team President, though it has no impact on the disgraceful product on the court right now, Walsh provides a glimmer of hope for a team that has no playoff wins since 2001. Forgive those same Knick fans who remain skeptical – just look at the track record of Jim Dolan. How many big names has he brought in to turn things around – Larry Brown, Isiah, Lenny Wilkins – and in the end Dolan really held the power.

Wednesday Dolan claimed that Walsh will receive “full autonomy”, in Madison Square Garden parlance, Dolan said “if things get screwed up blame him”. New York will know if Walsh is for real before this year’s draft. After the season ends, because it makes no sense to stir the pot with 7 games left, Isiah has to go, the entire front office team has to go, and anyone associated with Isiah needs to follow him out from coaches to administrative assistants. A stench of negativity and distrust permeates the walls of Madison Square Garden, Walsh’s first job is to fix that and get the right people in place before worrying about anything on the court.

Next comes the GM. Clearly Steve Mills is not the answer, but rumors about Kiki Vandeweghe, lingering on an interim contract across the River, have surfaced, along with Greg Anthony, and even Billy King. The coach does not matter as much right now, since so many problems need to be fixed with the roster and behind the scenes before the product on the court becomes watchable. Walsh needs to either go with a proven disciplinarian to clean the attitude of this team – see Rick Carlisle, Scott Skiles – or grab a big name associated with good times in Knick history – Mark Jackson, along with an assistant like Patrick Ewing.

Table the enthusiasm about any miracle turnarounds, if Walsh does this right, the Knicks have two years of losing ahead. Dolan let Thomas screw the team up to the point they are way over the salary cap next year, have bad contracts lingering in 2009-2010, and have little in the way of a competitive team to show for it. They avoided rebuilding for years, in the end they only avoided it from a team salary stand point, putting up win-loss records of rebuilding teams with championship caliber salaries. After next season Marbury and Malik Rose shave just under $30 million from the cap, followed by the combined $16 million of Quentin Richardson and the legendary Jerome James after the 2009-2010 season.  Finding some way to dismantle the Eddy Curry/Zach Randolph experiment will require magic, both players are inked through 2010-2011 at 5 figure salaries, putting up 10-cent performances.

Before calling Walsh a savior, or even good move, let’s see if he has the power and does this right. If he does, Knick fans still have a year or two of bad basketball to endure, but if he cleans house in the front office and sets a solid plan in place at least fans will see a light at the end of the dark bowels of MSG. And we can even read about it the next day without worrying about harm to beat reporters – Walsh takes control of that function as well. Here’s to hoping he treats reporters like human beings – and realized NY fans are not stupid.

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