Time will tell if Donnie Walsh is the man who saves the Knicks or if he's the latest captain to go down on the good ship Dolan. His basketball bona fides aren't in question, however, nor is the weight he has behind him in his efforts to turn the franchise around. Walsh wasn't simply James Dolan's pick for Knicks GM, he was David Stern's choice.
According to an expansive, overwhelmingly positive profile of Walsh in this week's New York magazine, the NBA commissioner lobbied for Walsh when Dolan called to ask his advice about a new GM. He made one recommendation.
"If there’s anyone well-suited to make careful analysis and do the best thing for the long-term health of the franchise, it’s Donnie," Stern said.
He downplayed his role in arranging the marriage, according to the article, but he also joined Walsh at a celebratory dinner on his first night on the job so take that for what you will. Walsh seems like a perfect fit. He built the Pacers into a contending team and then kept them in the upper echelon for the better part of a decade and is a New York native with deep ties to the world of basketball around the city. He meditates and reaches out to people around basketball and the city, both of which prove he's a different sort of guy than his predecessor.
Where Isiah Thomas made trades at a breakneck clip, Walsh has resisted the urge to throw out the baby with the bath water. Stephon Marbury's still here, for example, and it doesn't seem like he'll be changing directions every time the wind blows. That can be seen in the choice to hire Mike D'Antoni. D'Antoni is going to coach the system he wants to coach and the roster will form on top of that foundation. No more Zach Randolph-Eddy Curry inability to coexist or willy-nilly trades for Steve Francis when you already have Marbury. That kind of stability and identity is vital for the Knicks to fully break with the past.
Stability and identity lead to confidence and Walsh has brought that with him as well. That's more welcome than any change in personnel, anyway.