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Sunday, June 5, 2011

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Taking the challenge: Kevin McHale speaks at a news conference on Friday after being introduced as the new head coach of the Houston Rockets as team owner Leslie Alexander looks on. AP PHOTO

Walsh done with Knicks


NEW YORK — Donnie Walsh dedicated three years to fixing the New York Knicks, all the while knowing the job would take much longer.

At first he wanted to stay on as the guy who finished it, to see them really contend for a title. But at age 70, Walsh realized he wasn't up for the task. So when Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan wanted Walsh to commit to a multiyear extension, the longtime executive decided it was best not to return as Knicks president.

"I just to myself thought, 'I don't know that I'm going to be up to that, I don't think that I can commit to that,' because I'm getting older and I do this job only one way and that is full forward ahead," Walsh said Friday on a conference call. "It's 24-7 with me and I think that's what it takes, to be honest."

The Knicks announced in a statement that Walsh and Dolan mutually agreed that Walsh will not return when his contract expires at the end of June, a somewhat surprising departure and major loss for a team coming off its best season in a decade.

"The more I got into it, the more I realized the commitment is going to be at my age probably too much more than I want it to be and I don't think I can do that, and that's where I came from," Walsh said.

So he leaves the Knicks with a playoff team again, one with two All-Stars under contract, but still far from a championship level.

"I'm not bailing," Walsh said. "I wanted to see if I could get it closer to contending before I left, but I just don't think I can commit the amount that I would have to commit here and I understand the franchise needs a commitment for more than one year."

His departure opens questions about whether coach Mike D'Antoni will return for the final year of his deal, though Walsh indicated D'Antoni would stay.

"I know that he is the guy that can take this team to the next level," Walsh said. "Mike wants to see the job through."

Walsh apparently would have been back had he been willing to agree to stay for at least a couple of seasons, especially since the next one is in jeopardy because of the NBA's labor situation. But he has battled health problems and was separated from most of his family, who remained in Indiana when he came to New York.

"I do miss my wife and my family, and this is a 24-7 situation, as a lot of GM situations are. This is even more intense," Walsh said. "I'm running out of energy."

Walsh spent three seasons in New York, leading a massive rebuilding effort that got the Knicks back into the playoffs this season following the acquisitions of Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony.

But Dolan didn't pick up his option for next season, and the two couldn't agree on terms of an extension.

McHale takes reins


HOUSTON — Kevin McHale missed the intensity of NBA competition and the Houston Rockets offered an ideal opportunity for him to plunge back in.

Houston officially introduced the 53-year-old McHale as its new coach on Friday to replace Rick Adelman, who parted ways with the team after four seasons.

McHale has been working as a television analyst and hasn't coached since finishing the 2008-09 season in Minnesota. But he missed the camaraderie of the locker room and never lost his desire to return to the sidelines.

"There's nothing like being in the fight," McHale said. "There's something about being in the game that's really fun, and I really enjoyed that."

McHale's salary was not disclosed, but he has signed a three-year contract with a team option for a fourth year. He said he's spoken to most of the current Rockets and is just starting the process of evaluating and contacting potential assistants.

A seven-time All-Star, McHale helped Boston win three NBA championships during a 13-year playing career. Ex-Celtic players Danny Ainge (Boston) and Larry Bird (Indiana) are now NBA executives, and McHale is eager to lead his new team against them and other former teammates working as coaches.

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