Donnie Walsh had a vision when he took over the Knicks as General Manager and President of Basketball Operations. That vision was not limited to bringing the Knicks back to relevancy, but also to bring New York back to basketball supremacy. In looking at the NBA over the past few years, there isn't another President of Basketball Operations that has done a better job constructing a team than Donnie Walsh. You could throw Sam Presti of the Oklahoma City Thunder's name into that ring as well, but there is no argument that Donnie Walsh has revitalized New York basketball in his short time running the Knicks. It would truly be a shame to see Donnie go, especially when he has built something that could be truly special.
James Dolan put Knicks fans in exile for over ten years by allowing Isiah Thomas to run wild with player acquisitions and terrible contracts, resulting in a miserable, ineffective roster which was not financially viable. Couple that with sexual harassment claims against senior operating executives (Isiah) and the payment of a significant settlement ($11.6 million) reflects a franchise run amok and out of control. Note to all NBA general managers accused of sexual harassment by team employees: if you were not guilty, you wouldn't feel the need to pay for her silence. Do you know why James Dolan can now show his face again in the Garden without fear? It's because Donnie Walsh has resurrected his franchise and cleaned up his mess. It was such a mess that Dolan, who is known for throwing money at problems, didn't have enough money to take care of the dismal state of Knicks basketball. Prior to this year, Charlie Sheen would have been more likely to get an invite to a Meltzer family dinner than James Dolan.
Rome wasn't built in a day, and this Knicks franchise wasn't destroyed overnight and can't be rebuilt overnight. Donnie Walsh had a plan in place when he came to New York and it was very clear to the fans (and team management). That plan was to get as far under the salary cap as possible for the summer of 2010 when the likes of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson and Amare Stoudemire were all going to be eligible for free agency. In order to "trim the fat" off of the old Knicks, we had to get rid of some pretty talented and serviceable players. These losses were completely acceptable because we knew the plan was to try to woo a superstar, specifically LeBron James. As a lifelong and die-hard Knicks fan, I am not saying it wasn't painful to watch the Knicks of the past few years, because it was. That said, look at what an amazing team Donnie has built (all while attempting to discard all of Isiah's terrible contracts). We now have two of the top 15 players in the NBA and a point guard who is a proven champion. I personally didn't think this day would ever come, but we're right there -- we are on the cusp of bringing back New York basketball to where it reigns supreme throughout this city. How many people could or would have had Donnie Walsh's foresight? He genuinely doesn't want a player who isn't interested in playing under the brightest lights in the city that never sleeps. It is for that reason that Amare and Carmelo Anthony are the perfect fit. Not only do these two superstars embrace the bright lights, but they feed off of the spotlight and energy that can be found only in New York. At Carmelo's first game as a Knick last Wednesday against the Bucks, you couldn't help but get chills just thinking about how far this team has come in such a short time. Donnie has been behind every move, every step of the way, and that is what is so impressive. I don't know if any Knick fan in their right mind could have imagined that our team would have Amare, Carmelo, and Chauncey Billups in the starting lineup, not in their wildest dreams.
It is for all of the reasons noted above that it is absolutely imperative that James Dolan signs Donnie Walsh's contract extension. I am personally putting Dolan on notice -- not only as a fan of the Knicks and Rangers (who Dolan also owns) but also as a season-ticket holder. Jim: do whatever is necessary to bring Donnie Walsh back for the next two years. I don't care how much money it's going to cost or anything of that sort. If Donnie goes back to Indiana and becomes their President of Basketball Operations, Dolan, you will once again be the most hated person in New York City. People may think that Dolan's meeting with Carmelo was pivotal in sealing the deal for us, but my view of the situation is the opposite. From my perspective, we managed to sign Carmelo to come to New York despite Dolan's involvement (something that did not happen with LeBron James). Once I heard that James Dolan was even involved, I knew we were going to pay a hefty price, because all Dolan did was tip his hand to the Nuggets and show how much he wanted Carmelo. Although I agree that the trade was a great one for the Knicks, we probably could have signed Carmelo for less had Dolan kept his mouth shut.
Finally, Donnie is a basketball genius and has turned this franchise from a train wreck to relevancy in three short years. James, if you want to continue to be comfortable in those courtside seats, without the harassment of the fans, please do the right thing and make sure Donnie Walsh stays the course. Please re-sign Donnie. You might not always agree with him, but his record speaks much, much louder than yours ever will.