To say that I was surprised by today’s news about former Knick President and GM Donnie Walsh would be inaccurate, to say the least. Speculation of late was that the NYC-born architect of the franchise’s recent return to glory marginal relevance was committed to seeing this thing all the way through.
Sadly, the reality all along was that for him to stay would have meant Walsh might as well have actually been committed.
Like in Bellevue Psychiatric Ward, otherwise known as Isiah Thomas’ “weekend retreat.”
But maybe I’m reading this all wrong. Maybe there’s a rational explanation why Knick owner James Dolan does the seemingly self-destructive things he does.
Maybe – to paraphrase the great Lex Luther in Superman II – the lights are off out here, while he (Dolan) was safe in there (his own mind). After all, I can think of some perfectly good reasons why Walsh shouldn’t have been brought back:
- Dolan balked – and with good reason, too – at having to pay to make the newly reconstructed MSG executive offices wheelchair accessible for Walsh.
- The Knicks’ first winning season since the Herbert Hoover administration was at odds with Dolan’s long-standing belief in “tradition and history.”
- Walsh’s $5M annual salary was simply untenable. Why pay a seasoned and proven team executive the same money that might otherwise be utilized to pay an overrated, over-the-hill, injury-prone free agent via the mid-level exception. Come on, folks, that’s just Budgeting 101.
- Despite repeated warnings from ownership, Walsh refused to wear the minimum number of pieces of flair. Also, his non-participation in Hawaiian T-Shirt Day didn’t win him many fans among the ordinary rank ‘n file at MSG. Seriously, any one of these scenarios might be true.
Every so often I find myself dreaming of being the guy who finally gets that ever-so-elusive sit-down with Jimmy D. I wonder what kinds of questions I would ask him – or better yet – how many inquiry-based haymakers I could unload before he storms out of the room or forces me to listen to his latest album.
When you think about it, Donnie Walsh shares a lot in common with another NYC-born leader-of-men who endured the incessant slings and arrows of his team’s owner, none other than the former New York Yankee manager, Joe Torre.
If you close your eyes, you can almost imagine Torre sitting down with Walsh tonight in the back of some smoky men’s club, lamenting their woes over some uber-rare filets – a couple of broads ‘n dames at their sides giggling at the gentlemen’s war stories.
Of course, the big difference between Walsh and Torre is that the latter withstood the irrational whims and tirades of the guy who signed his paychecks long enough to bring home the bacon.
Championships, you see, tend to make even the most severe of disagreements fade into the background.
Also of no small distinction is the fact that Walsh goes out with near-universal respect, adoration, and a healthy dose of sympathy from Knick fans and the media alike. Unlike Torre, whose reputation remains somewhat cloudy, Walsh is all class.
Unfortunately for Walsh, his Knick journey started from beneath the surface of a deep sea of the previous regime’s ineptitude, and it was only his tremendous guile, legendary patience, and battle-tested experience that enabled him to drag the Knicks back from the abyss.
Alas, time was not on his side.
In the end, New York – the city and the basketball team – will be okay, despite what the Daily News’ Sir Francis Isolation would have you believe.
Zeke isn’t coming back, and it would take a catastrophic injury to either Amar’e Stoudemire or Carmelo Anthony (no jinx, no jinx, no jinx) to derail the progress that’s been made over the now extinguished Walsh Era.
So via con dios, Señor Walsh. You may be gone, but you’ll never be forgotten.