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Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Walsh says time right to move on
By PETER VECSEY
DALLAS — Donnie Walsh's most sacrilegious compadre predicts his semester break in Indianapolis will not agree with him.
"The fresh air will kill him within a week," Mel Daniels says.
Boredom might do him in first.
Walsh has no hobby horse to mount. He plays no golf, collects no stamps, coins or paintings, isn't into bird watching or weed whacking, and his surgically repaired body appears to rule out training for a mini-marathon.
"Mel swears I won't be able to stay home and do nothing," Walsh said several months ago. "But I'm convinced I can do nothing as well as anybody."
Especially since Walsh's three years as Knicks president earned him lifetime money ($15 million plus) for him and his family. Additionally, being James Dolan's kept man as a consultant for the next year gives him the freedom to continue to enjoy life to the fullest — as opposed to grinding it out 24 hours a day in New York -while deciding whether to retire for real.
"I'm good," Walsh texted Friday after the abrupt announcement he was stepping aside. "I get to play with Judy and the dogs. What's bad?"
Everything, if you subscribe to sensationalized reports that externally make sense due to the fear of the known. Since Dolan began firing and hiring Knicks' executives, one crisis is almost always closely followed by aftershocks . . . and Isiah Thomas again is prowling in the forefront.
This provokes newspapers and talk shows to feed the frenzy by squandering space and hot air for his folderol.
Of course, if Thomas is solemnly telling the truth and he's not really interested in replacing Walsh, I think the entire world might want to come together as one in celebration.
In any event, as soon as the losing Dolan-Thomas parlay began getting mentioned as a possibility, the natural reaction of utterly shocked reporters was to think the worst. They imagine a devious conspiracy has taken place. Or, at best, Walsh had no other option but to bolt.
None of those controversial explanations are true. I can write with complete certainty Walsh's departure was not about lack of control, money or respect. His exit stage right is as pure as it gets; it's strictly about wanting to do what's best for him and the Knicks' franchise.
There were no prohibitive issues except term of contract. Walsh was willing to accept one season for x-amount of money and was satisfied with his stage-managing power. In a show of good faith, Dolan was willing to give him two seasons to continue rebuilding the Knicks into genuine championship contestants.
My lone misgiving about any of this is why it took so long to reach a conclusion. Surely Walsh was clear from the outset regarding the term of engagement he preferred. You would think that would have been one of the first things discussed. Maybe Dolan didn't think he was sincere about giving up such a plush position and millions. If so, he never got to know Walsh that well over the last three years.
At any rate, believe it or not, Walsh's choice was not impulsive, grouchy or forced. But it was indeed selfish . . . for the good of his well-being and the team.
At 70, Walsh simply couldn't see knocking himself out beyond next season. Like Jerry Sloan, he no longer felt he had the "energy" to do his job justice.
Unlike Sloan, Walsh did not want to walk away in the midst of unfinished business. Better to step down now so the Knicks - hopefully listening to his recommendations — can appoint someone competent to take them where they crave to go.
I could feel the relief in Walsh's text.
"I enjoyed getting the franchise back to respectability, but I do not have time to get it a contending level," he wrote.
"I have done this for 27 years straight. But I am not retiring. I could change (laugh). I loved doing this in New York. It's the best city in the NBA."
* * *
So, the Rockets didn't want Rick Adelman but signed Kevin McHale?
His Frankenstein imitation must have been dead-on!
The arbitrator has reached a decision concerning Mike Dunleavy's claim against the Clippers for $6 million in back wages. However, it will not be released until both parties pay their respective court fees.
Why would Donald Sterling want to do that?
The process is custom made for him to drag this on forever.
Sources say Sam Mitchell will not return to the Nets to assist Avery Johnson . . . In anticipation of a total coaching shakeup in Minnesota, assistant Reggie Theus is trying to line up a gig elsewhere, pro or college.
How is this for brilliance?
How's this for crushing motivation and squashing success!
The Grizzlies greatly exceeded expectations, won their first playoff game and series in franchise history, had four home sellouts and charmed the city of Memphis.
So, how does owner Michael Heisley reward his team's coaching staff?
None of the six assistants are being given remotely near the full $32,000 plus playoff share. Only head coach Lionel Hollins is banking one.
What's more, none are signed for next season. Damon Stoudemire already has joined Memphis State.
Dave ("Double Back") Joerger already has interviewed for at least one pro position.
As Hollins' championship backcourt partner with the 1977 Blazers, Johnny Davis figures to get a new deal, though it's unlikely to kick in until a new CBA is signed.
And, as of June 30, Henry Bibby and Barry Hecker appear to be on the outs just to pinch a relatively few pennies.
How's that for bad business!
Peter Vecsey covers the NBA for the New York Post.