Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The New Don

Donnie Walsh Officially Named President of Knicks
It was on December 22, 2003 that Isiah Thomas was named President of Basketball Operation of the New York Knicks. His official bio on the team's website and in the media guide states that this is the date that he "brought his singular style and winning attitude to the world’s greatest basketball city."

That bio goes on to state that:
His impact upon the Knicks has been swift and dramatic, as he has engineered trades to bring the likes of Stephon Marbury, Jamal Crawford, Steve Francis, Eddy Curry, Jalen Rose and Quentin Richardson to New York, as well as the free agent signings of Jared Jeffries and Jerome James.

And, adds that:
Thomas’ patience and ability to stick to his long-term plan, rebuilding the organization through a balance of youth, athleticism and experience, have re-energized the franchise (every player on the Knicks’ roster has been acquired during Thomas’ regime). Taking on the added role of head coach, he brings a singular philosophy - both short- and long-term - for returning the Knicks to elite status.

The fact that this text is on the team's website today is as laughable as the team's lack of a called play coming out of a timeout in the fourth quarter. Steve Francis, Jalen Rose and Jerome James are listed as three of the eight most significant non-draft roster moves during Thomas' tenure as Team President. Really? On April 2, 2008 the team is touting the Jared Jeffries and Jerome James free-agent signings in his best-of section? That right there is as damning as anything else I could ever write about the guy. It's so much more damning because you realize that his worst, most laughable moves are really all that he has to show for himself. After all, Jared Jeffries may actually be his best free-agent signing!

And, horrendous personel judgement is just one of the myriad reasons why Donnie Walsh is replacing Isiah as President of Basketball Operations. That is one job down for Thomas and hopefully the rest will be stripped from him shortly after the close of the season. Either way, there is a new Don in town as of 1 PM EST and I couldn't be any happier.

In this case the new boss is nothing like the old boss. The new Don is nothing like the old Thomas. He has the job because he's great at exactly this sort of job and not because he was once great at another job (playing basketball) that is related to this sort of job. The new Don is someone whose resume reads impeccably*.

His team has been to the playoffs in 16 of the last 18 years. He put together a team that made a trip to the NBA Finals in 2000. His teams made six trips to the Eastern Conference Finals. His teams won four division titles. He put together a team that had the best regular season record. His club made (mostly, except when Isiah sold him on Fred Jones over Tayshaun Prince) savvy draft picks and hired (mostly, except a certain former Pistons great) quality coaches.

Even if you don't think he is the absolute best person for the job. Even if you long for Jerry West, there is no way that you don't think that Walsh isn't one of the top-four people for the job. He is a basketball man, born in NYC, molded as a player under the legendary Frank McGuire at UNC (where he would receive his law degree after eschewing a career as a baller), shaped as a coach at the University of South Carolina and hardened as a General Manager-turned-Team Executive in the Midwest. After this long circuitous journey, Donnie Walsh is ready to come home. He is ready to turn around the enfeebled Knickerbockers.

There is a new Don in the New York City. And, he ain't a member of the Corrleone family. He is a member of the Walsh family from the Riverdale section of the Bronx.

*Everything that transpired in Indiana lately goes on Larry Bird's ledger in my opinion. Walsh has been phasing himself out, and I do (perhaps with rose-tinted glasses) place most of the blame at Bird's feet. Of course, this team was irrevocably damaged by the melee with the Pistons. That team had Artest and half of the Warriors roster that everyone in the NBA loves now. Remember that? Things have gone to hell in a hand basket since that fight (and since Walsh starting backing towards the door in deference to Bird) but we can't forget that Walsh new about those guys before Nellie did.

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